The 34th National Farmers’ Day (NFD), which was held last week in Tamale under the theme: ‘Enhancing Agricultural Productivity and Food Security Through Improved Agri-Business’, was described in many circles as very successful and full of hope for the agricultural sector.
As had been the case since the award was introduced over three decades ago, the celebration, marked on the first Friday of December, usually recognizes the contributions of farmers and fishers in the country with a national holiday. It is also designed to pay respect to the importance of the farming and fishing industry in the socio-economic growth of Ghana.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), apart from being the mainstay of the national economy, the sector contributes about 40 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); 30 per cent of its export earnings and employs more than 60 per cent of its workforce and directly feeds millions of people.
From a humble beginning of token donations of Wellington boots, pieces of wax prints and machetes, subsequent winners became proud recipients of power tillers; tractors; a brand new pick-up vehicle and recently a four-bedroom house.
To many, the theme for this year is apt, more so when the country is seeing a significant degree of bumper harvest and the exportation of plantain to neighbouring countries within the West African Sub-region.
This year’s award saw a 60-year-old farmer from the Nkoranza South Municipality in the Brong Ahafo Region, Mr James Obeng Boateng, as the overall winner, and for his reward, received a cash prize of $100,000, equivalent to GH¢480,000. The money is intended to be used to purchase agriculture equipment and tools for his farming activities.
As if that was not enough, President Nana Akufo-Addo announced that his government would award 24 scholarships to wards of the winners to study any agricultural subject of their choice for local tertiary programmes, ranging from first degree to PhD.
While this is another laudable boost to farmers in general, THE PUBLISHER thinks government needs to look beyond the ‘cosmetic policies’ designed to cater for the welfare of farmers and their immediate families.
The paper is of the view that, farmers will appreciate high prices and regular markets for their produce, more than the ‘annual handouts’ doled out to them in the name of national awards.
The bitter truth is that, in spite of the bumper harvest and glut we are seeing, only about 13 per cent of agricultural produce get processed, with most of value addition mostly in cassava and cereals. In fact the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has conceded that processing of vegetables, such as tomatoes, is virtually non-existent.
It is in this light that we call on Government to attach greater importance to agro-processing and preservation, which would not only help to minimize post-harvest losses and stabilise prices, but would also increase farmers’ incomes and better their standard of living.
We think the acquisition of 27 warehouses belonging to the Buffer Stock Company, to be handed over to the Grains Development Board to encourage private sector participation in agriculture, is a step in the right direction.