Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, appears to be fast asleep on job as the minister in charge of agricultural activities in the country, as he told Parliament last Thursday, he was not seized with information that some fertilizer meant for farmers was being criminally smuggled out of the country.
The minister’s unawareness may not be criminal or his sleeping on the job could only be funny, but, according to Minority Spokesperson on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs in parliament, Hon. Eric Opoku, the minister might need a political ‘duvet’ to be able to perform his duty.
The minister’s failure to furnish parliament with facts on the matter made him appear so deeply asleep on his job that, even a reference to his colleague Minister of State at the same ministry who had alluded to the fact that the ministry has sensed information of fertilizer being smuggled would not wake him up.
“I am not aware that some fertilizers have been smuggled outside the country, I do not speak on rumors (reference to Citifm news report ). As far as I am, I do not know anything about fertilizer being smuggled,” he told parliament emphatically, amid fist-banging on table by the minority.
The Food and Agriculture Minister was dragged before parliament through a question filed by Eric Opoku, MP for Asunafo South in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The Minority Spokesperson for Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs wanted to know from the minister what was the expenditure, participation and status of the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme.
Hon. Opoku said the minister’s response to the current happening in the country regarding farmers plight indicated that the minister was not on top of issues and might be sleeping on the job.
“Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us whether he is aware or not some fertilizer meant for farmers are being smuggled and what steps are being taken to prevent that?”
He later told the media he was surprised at some of the responses from the minister, stating, “How can the whole minister deny that he is unaware that people are smuggling fertilizer across neighbouring countries, how can you say the reports of the media that people are smuggling fertilizer meant for farmers are rumors?”
In response to the question, Dr. Afriyie Akoto told the House, government spent a total amount of GHc157,023,174.00 on the campaign for “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme.
According to him, “the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has spent one hundred and city seven million, twenty three thousand, one hundred and seventy four Ghana cedis on campaign for the major season in the Southern sector and the three Northern regions. Inputs distribution for the minor cropping season in the southern sector is ongoing. The Ministry is yet to receive the cost for the minor season cropping.”
He said, out of the budgeted amount, GHS24, 963,981.00 has been approved for Seeds and GHS132,059,193.00 for fertilizer, of which a total of 188,338 farmers from all the 10 region who officially registered for the Planting for Food and Job Programme in the country stand to benefit.
In addition to that, Dr. Afriyie Akoto stated that government is also planning to build warehouses in all the 2016 Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and revamp the existing deplorable ones to help ensure food security for the country.
The minister stated that a proposal has been sent to the Economic Management Team for approval as part of ensuring the success of the project, noting that, if approved, the proposal will see five key state institutions supplied goods and foodstuff from the initiative.
He noted that government was doing all it can to ensure a ready market for the produce, hence the intention of building a warehouse in all districts as the Ministry in partnership with COCOBOD was taking stock of abandoned cocoa warehouses across the country.
So far, Dr. Afriyie Akoto said, close to 200 of the abandoned warehouses have been identified as the PFJP is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 per cent; rice by 49 per cent; soybean by 25 per cent; and sorghum by 28 per cent from current production levels.
Answering further question from Mr. Opoku, on the expected number of jobs to be created, the minister emphasised the creation of about 750,000 jobs around the 215 districts that the operation is being carried out.
He also assured that government was going to lift the ban on employment of extension officers, as well as post some National Service Persons to fill the gap created by the non-existent of extension officers.
When asked further as to whether he was aware that some fertilizers meant for farmers in the PFJP had been smuggled to neighbouring country, the minister denied knowledge of that, noting, “I am not privy to that.”
Dr. Afriyie Akoto also reassured Ghanaians that the phenomenon of widespread impact of the fall armyworm invasion has been dealt with and that the impact of the invasion is not as dire as it has been reported.
He noted that out of the total hectares of farmlands that were affected, a minute percentage had been completely destroyed by the invasion.
“The total hectares affected by the armyworm came to 112,812 hectares. That is what was affected. There is a difference between affected and destroyed and this is where a lot of people were confused. The total number destroyed was only 14,430 hectares. It is not even up to 2% of the total area under maize alone never mind the total area under all crops in Ghana, so there is a huge exaggeration of the total impact of the army worm invasion,” he observed.
He explained that the invasion of the fall armyworm is of American origin and was first recorded in the country in 2016, asserting that the effort put in by the government will ensure a timely containment of the situation.
He further said that the country, based on the measures put in place, will never witness such an invasion again.
“I would like to use this opportunity to assure the nation that the fall armyworm has been defeated by the government, totally defeated. The impression being created by some people that the armyworm is consuming ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ is not correct, it’s wrong.”
“This is why in anticipation of the surpluses we are expecting, we are making frantic efforts to ensure that not one single grain or bean is affected because of lack of markets” he stated.
The fall armyworm invasion was one of five challenges the minister enumerated as hindering the progress of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs initiative.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba