The Parliamentary Select committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, has lauded plans to establish the Crop Development Authority (CDA) this year to guide or regulate the planting and export of tree crops like cashew.
In the 2019 budget, the government announced that it will launch the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) model of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme (PFJ), aimed at promoting selected tree crops including coconut, cashew, coffee, rubber, to diversify the dominant cocoa crop.
The committee in its report on the annual budget estimates for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) for the 2019 fiscal year, urged the ministry to expedite action on the CDA, which will see to regulate the selected crops.
“The PERD will distribute seedlings free of charge to farmers and will be implemented in 142 districts in all the 10 regions,” the report stated.
It recommended that Parliament approves the total sum of GH¢967,845,075 to the agricultural sector to enable it to undertake its planned programmes and activities for this year, 2019.
Last year, a total of GH¢598,620,435 was allocated to the sector but as at October, the ministry had received in excess of GH¢601,382,716.
The committee, after thoroughly examining the budget estimates of MoFA for this financial year, expressed satisfaction that the policies and programmes outlined for the year would go a long way to support the achievement of the sector goals.
It has recommended that the Grains and Legumes Directorate be granted approval to retain all its Internally Generated Funds (IGFs) to ensure optimum storage of foundations germplasms under the required temperatures, given that the seeds are assets.
Germplasm is living tissue from which new plants can be grown. It contains the information for a species' genetic makeup, a valuable natural resource of plant diversity. Agriculture benefits from uniformity among crop plants within a variety, which ensures consistent yields and make management easier.
The committee noted that out of the GH¢10,000 allocation made to the directorate to produce seeds, only a derisory sum of GH¢2,000 was released and was totally supported by donor funds of GH¢300,000.
It said that currently, the directorate was dependent on aged machinery and equipment which broke down frequently leading to high cost of repair and maintenance.
“Consequently, it was unable to rake in the needed funds such that out of a revenue target of GH¢200, 442, only GH¢152,855 was released, and most of which were committed to the payment of high electricity charges,” the report stated.
The directorate was set up by an Act of Parliament No. 324 of April 17, 1970 under the MoFA with a mission to produce and distribute good quality foundation seeds of cereals, legumes and vegetable seeds, as well as vegetatively propagated planting materials of cassava, yam, plantain and citrus seedlings.
The committee requested that funding should be provided for retooling of the directorate.
Pursuant to Orders 140 (4) and 176 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Speaker of the house referred the estimates of the MOFA to the committee for consideration and report to the house.
It noted the inadequate storage space for crops but said it had been informed that 80 new ware houses are under construction to ensure adequate storage of crops in 2019. Thirty out of the number will be supported from the budget of the MOFA and the remaining 50 by the Ministry for Special Development Initiatives.
Performance and projections
The Planting for Food and Jobs programme (PFJ), a food security and emergency preparedness initiative witnessed a growth rate of 8.4 per cent in 2017 against an average growth rate of 3.4 per cent.
The 2019 budget states that maize yield increased by 67 per cent from 1.8mt/ha in 2017 to 3.0mt/ha in 2016; rice yield increased by 48 per cent from 2.7mt/ha to 4.0mt/ha in the same period and soya yield increased by 150 per cent from 1mt/ha to 2.5mt/ha.
On account of that, the government implemented an expanded version of the PFJ in 2018 and will continue in 2019, all aimed towards the transformation and modernisation of agriculture.
In the 2018 cropping season, 577,000 farmers were supplied with subsidised fertiliser and seeds, and 278,000 farmers captured on the biometric database. In 2019, the PFJ will continue with a target enrollment of one million farmers and registration of additional 500,000 farmers on the database.
Also, the government will launch the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) model of the PFJ aimed at promoting selected tree crops including coconut, cashew, coffee, rubber, mango and oil palm and diversifying from the dominant cocoa crop.
The programme will distribute free seedlings to farmers and will be implemented in 142 districts in all the 10 regions.