Agric Marshall Plan unveiled

  • 500,000 farmers for Planting for Food and Jobs
  • 50 dams under One Village, One Dam
  • 200 tractors to be distributed
  • GH₵400m insurance cover

The 2018 Budget has unveiled the much-anticipated ‘Marshall Plan for Agriculture (MPA)’, aimed at revamping the country’s abysmally performing agriculture sector to make it the true backbone of the economy.

Some of the initiatives under the plan include registering a total of 500,000 farmers under government’s flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme, and also recruiting 2,700 extension agents to support it.

Again, government will distribute 200 tractors and matching implements, and 1,000 power-tillers and walking tractors to enhance agric mechanisation.

To address the challenges of irrigation, government will, in 2018, continue to facilitate and promote double-cropping by constructing 50 small dams and dugouts – making available an additional 147ha of irrigable land for crop production.

To also improve livelihoods of livestock farmers in all ten regions and increase meat production, 2,000 livestock farmers will be supported with 70,000 small ruminants (sheep and goats).

The ministry will also support six National Livestock Breeding Stations to produce and distribute 200 crossbred heifers, 1,700 improved pigs, and 100,000 cockerels.

In addition to the aforementioned, the Akufo-Addo Programme for Economic Transformation (AAPET) will establish a GH¢400million fund to de-risk the agriculture and agribusiness sector through sustainable agriculture financing and crop insurance schemes.

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The AAPET is aimed at mobilising and leveraging public, private, and public-private partnership investments; modernising and transforming agriculture; and developing major infrastructure projects that support the agricultural zones of the country and industrialisation agenda of government.

It will also support the development of agribusiness start-ups through the establishment of a grant funding facility, and abolish duties on some agricultural produce processing equipment and machinery.

Historical performance and challenges

The sector, ever since recording growth of 24 and 50.8 percent respectively in the first and second quarter of 2013, has performed awfully. Growth of the sector took a sharp nose-dive into the negatives as it recorded -12.6 and -0.6 in the last two quarters of that year.

The negative growth continued in 2014 until the third quarter, when it grew by 28 percent, making it the first time it grew past industry and services since quarter four of 2012. Since then, however, it has never grown past the other two sectors – even though it has moved from the negatives.

In the second quarter of 2017 agriculture grew by 3.4 percent, whereas industry and services grew by 19.3 and 5.6 percent respectively.

The situation is even more dispiriting as far as the sector’s contribution to GDP is concerned. Apart from the third quarter of 2009 when it became the largest contributor to GDP by recording 41.9 percent, compared to 17.6 and 40.5 percent recorded by industry and services, it has never hit that peak again.

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In fact, the latest GDP figures show that agriculture contributed 22.6 percent, whereas industry and services contributed 24.2 and 53.2 percent respectively.

From the above statistics, it is clear that the statement “agric is the backbone of the country’s economy” has become just a cliché, with facts and figures proving otherwise.

The abysmal performance of the sector has been blamed largely on financial constraints as lenders, especially banks, consider it high risk to lend to players in the sector.

Again, the absence of modern tools and technology for farmers has been another bane of the sector. Many farmers, in this era, continue to employ outmoded farming methods such as weeding with cutlasses and hoes instead of tractors; and harvesting manually, rather than using combine harvesters, among others.

Irrigation cannot be left out of the plight of farmers. Most farmers continue to rely on the rainy season, which limits their ability to farm all-year-round.

The above, and many other challenges, have been the cause of the sector’s slump over the years. It is against this background that government has unveiled the MPA to address these challenges and restore the sector to a path of growth.

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