Agriculture has remained the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy for many decades. The contribution of the agricultural sector to the development of the country in job creation, export earnings, income and food for domestic consumption, has been been very immense.
In terms of Gross Domestic Product(GDP) growth, the sector alone contributes more than 50%. Foreign exchange through export earnings from agricultural commodities and produce hover around 40%.
The annual growth of the agricultural production has been slow for many years. In recent years, agriculture has grown from 2.9% in 2016 to 6.1% in 2017.
In 2018, agricultural GDP grew by 4.8%.
Foreign exchange earnings increased from $440million in 2017 to $591million in 2018, representing 34% growth.
From 2006, agricultural GDP averaged from Ghs6.7billion to an all time high of Ghs9.3billion in the 4th quarter of 2019.
These statistics indicate that, the agricultural sub-sector has experienced some growth in the last two(2) years.
The previous administrations that preceded the Akufo-Addo led government saw some undulating trends in the sector.
The New Patriotic Party(NPP) has made some promises to help agricultural production with the view to continue to help address the challenges facing the sector. To be able to evaluate their ability to prosecute them will depend on what they have done so far to improve the conditions of farmers and the rural areas.
In their 2016 manifesto, their programmes to grow agriculture included planting for food and jobs to increase food availability and step up food security, improve rural development, construction of at least, one(1) dam for every farming village across the country particularly the Northern Region of Ghana among others.
So far, checks have revealed that adequate foundation and breeder seeds have been supplied to support the planting for food and jobs. The Grains and Legumes Development Board has been resourced to carry out this operation among other duties.
This move has helped to increase the supply of foundation seed to farmers over the period. For instance, in 2016, 24 metric tonnes of seeds were supplied to farmers.
In 2019, it was increased to 473metric tonnes.
The cocoa sector also has received some support in the area of diseases and pests control. Under this policy, compensation payments have been reinforced to motivate farmers whose cocoa farms are cut for the cocoa rehabilitation programme.
The 1 Village 1 Dam has also helped to build over 500 mini dams for farming communities in the Northern Region.
At the same time, the cocoa industry has witnessed significant improvement in production volumes from 2003 to date.
From that period, massive cocoa disease and pests control programmes popularly known as mass spraying of cocoa, were embarked on by the Kufour's administration through the Ghana Cocoa Board. These programmes among other good agronomic practices(GAP) helpedto increase cocoa production from about 400,000 in 2001 metric tonnes to over 700,000 metric tonnes in 2003.
A 1 million target set to be achieved in 2008 was later actualized in the 2010/2011 cocoa crop season, resulting from the massive control measures put in place in the previous years by the Kufour's government.
From then on, production has dipped to about 800,000 metric tonnes due to factors like cocoa swollen shoot outbreak, especially in the Western North and Western Regions, Central, Volta, Bono and some parts of Eastern and Ashanti Regions.
In the 2018/19 crop season, 811,250metric tonnes were produced. In the 2019/20 season, 850,000 metric tonnes has been projected. From the trend, and the assurances from the Ghana Cocoa Board boss, Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, it is hoped the target will be achieved to increase production.
This is in spite of the covid19 pandemic coupled with illegal mining activities that has bedevilled the sector.
In a bid to revamp cocoa industry and increase output, the current government led by President Akufo-Addo has resourced the Ghana Cocoa Board(COCOBOD) , the regulator of the industry to embark on some reforms.
Under this programme, all diseased and moribund cocoa farms are being destroyed and trees cut to replace them with improved and disease-free varieties. Farmers whose cocoa trees are cut, are compensated with Ghs1000 per hectare and the rehabilitated farm given back to him/her after 2 years.
Producer price of cocoa has also been increased from Ghs7600($1470)per tonne in 2018 to Ghs8240($1600) in 2019 for the farmer.
Ghana has teamed up with Cote D'voire to negotiate a floor price of not less than $2,600 per tonne coupled with a Living Income Differential(LID) of $400 for the farmers on every tonne of cocoa purchased.
More extension staff has also been engaged to reduce the farmer:extension ratio.
Going forward in their 2020 manifesto, the NPP has promised to promote cattle ranching and facilitate land acquisition for that purpose. So, some have already begun at Wawase in the Afram Plains, Accra Plains etc.
The manifesto has also offered to provide patrol boats to police foreign fishing vessels. To prove its readiness, the Navy has been supplied with 4 boats and the Police Marine Unit also given 2 to enhance security along territorial waters of Ghana.
It also offers to increase subsidies on retail prices of seeds, fertiliser and other agrochemicals. In the planting for food and jobs policy, it has already started the initial implementation where 50% subsidy has been placed on seeds and fertiliser for the farmers.
There are other promises made in the their 2020 manifesto that will be highlighted in our next article.
From what has been discussed and analysed so far, there is a preponderance of probability that, the government can execute its promises provided it will operate within the same pace it did for the their 2016 promises.
It is hoped that, if such programmes are implemented to the fullest, the agricultural and the cocoa sector of the country will see a further boost.