The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, has disclosed that the country spends billions of dollars on food imports every year.
He revealed during his 2019 budget presentation in Parliament on Thursday that the country has spent over $2 billion every year importing food.
Providing details, the Minister said Ghana imports over a billion dollars of rice, $320 million of sugar, and $374 million of poultry.
The volume of imports currently means, more jobs are being created in foreign countries from where these foods are imported.
“Most of these we could produce here; creating jobs and saving foreign exchange,” the Minister told Parliament.
Relished by the number of jobs that could be created through local food production and consumption, the Minister revealed plans by government to replace a significant fraction of these imports in the medium term.
Since 2009, the agriculture sector’s contribution has been on a steady decline, with its share of national economic output, measured by gross domestic product (GDP), dropping from 31.8% to 18.3% in 2017.
Its annual growth rate has also been wobbly. From 7.2% in 2009, growth in the sector declined to 0.8% in 2011 before inching up to 2.3% in 2012.
In 2016, the sector grew by 3% but rebounded to 8.4% in 2017 on the back of strong growth in the cocoa and fishing subsectors.
To enable the sector to perform better in 2019 and beyond, the Minister disclosed that government will be launching the livestock model of the Planting for Food and Jobs prgoramme called Rearing for Food and Jobs (RJF).
The sole objective of this programme is to help increase the production of selected livestock, especially poultry.
“In the case of rice, the strategy is to increase volumes through increased yields of rice by expanding production areas in irrigated schemes, valleys and low lands around the country,” the Minister said.
He added that the strategy will be underpinned by making available to farmers, improved and certified seeds, subsidized fertilizers, enhanced access to mechanized harvesters to reduce post-harvest losses due to traditional labour intensive threshing, and encourage private sector investment in milling facilities.
This is will ensure that the quality of locally processed rice will be at par with imported rice.
“In the case of poultry, about 70 percent of the cost of production comes from feed, which in turn is primarily determined by the cost and availability of maize and soya bean.”
“So, in order to bring down the cost of feed and make poultry production in the country competitive, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is working on a programme to sustainably boost soya bean production in the country through the provision of improved and certified seeds, subsidized fertilizers and harvest equipment to reduce field losses.”
The government, Mr Ofori-Atta said, will also provide adequate good storage for agriculture in order to avoid a situation where the increased agricultural production arising from support to farmers ends up going to waste.
In 2019, government expects to increase its warehouse storage capacity by around 80,000 metric tons, the Minister revealed.