The Politics Of Agriculture And Oil
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[Figure+1-Trade+Statistics+Department%2C+Ghana+Statistical+Service%2C+2016] Figure 1-Trade Statistics Department, Ghana Statistical Service, 2016
Agriculture they say is the backbone of the Ghanaian economy however the growth of the sector has not been as desired. Low investment, climate change issues, inadequate irrigation facilities among other challenges plaguing the sector have led to low levels of production in various commodities leading to the importation of food items to feed the nation. The poultry industry has not been spared with the challenges. It is bedeviled with problems ranging from high cost of poultry feed, huge volumes of importation of poultry products and diseases like bird flu. Has money for Agriculture Modernization under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act affected production since the discovery of oil. Are farmers happy going to the polls this year? What are their concerns? GBC’s Dominic Hlordzi visited some farms in Ada and Kpone to find out the issues, matching them against the promises of the two major political parties, the NPP and NDC going into the elections.

Oil revenues for Agric Modernization

Ghana made over $3.2 billion from 2011 to 2015 from oil production. Out of the amount, about $1.4 million representing 44 percent of the revenues was allocated to the Annual Budget Funding Amount, ABFA. Parliament in 2011 in the spirit of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act approved the use of the ABFA for expenditure and amortization of loans for oil and gas infrastructure, Agriculture Modernization, roads and other infrastructure and capacity building.

The Agric sector received about GH¢328 million representing about 11 percent of total Petroleum revenues collected since the production of oil and the said amount is reportedly used for national fertilizer subsidy programme, procurement of farm equipment and supplies, support for Agric institutions, refurbishment of Laboratories, rehabilitation of irrigation facilities, construction of bungalows among others.

Onset of the “Dutch disease”?

Has these interventions yielded any results in the Agriculture sector? In the last six years, the sector reportedly grew at an annual rate of three-point-five percent as compared to an oil driven average annual growth of six-point-seven in the economy during the same period. Some critiques say the fact that Agriculture is growing less than half of the economic growth average, it is a signal of the onset of the “Dutch disease”.

Betty Sackey is a farmer and Coordinator of the Accelerated Youth Oriented for National Goal Anyongo Foundation operating in the Ada West and East Districts. She narrates the tales of farmers in the area. “Whoever wins the elections and there is oil money available for farmers, what I will say is that at the end of the day everybody will eat before sleeping, so we should look at subsidies. We have to subsidize the chemicals, fertilizers and other farm inputs where everybody will benefit. Other countries have reduced their cost of inputs, they have their products very very cheap and they bring them to the country and it is easy for us to buy than our people’s products. It is very bad.” Betty Sackey a farmer in Ada prays.

Agric Manifestos

What are the plans of the Political parties going into this year’s elections for the farmers? Will they ride on the back of oil and gas to boost food production in the country? In its Manifesto, the NPP says it will pursue a value-addition strategy, aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing, developing new and stable markets for products, ensure that farming inputs are readily available at affordable prices, tap into petroleum resources to produce fertilizers locally for the industry. The NPP says it will reactivate plans for irrigation by facilitating the provision of community-owned small-scale irrigation facilities across the country, especially in northern Ghana, through the “One Village, One Dam” policy. On poultry, the NPP says it will address challenges in the industry holistically. It intend supporting the private sector to expand local production of poultry feed and veterinary products, facilitating access to credit for poultry farmers, encourage local poultry meat processing and institute anti-dumping measures on poultry among other initiatives.

The NDC promised to launch a “Green Revolution” aimed at doubling the output of staple crops, particularly grains and tubers by 2025. Within the period, Ghana should become a net exporter of rice and maize, as well as become self-sufficient in poultry, sugar and tomato production. The Party pledged to construct storage facilities, including silos and cold storage units at strategic locations to minimize post-harvest losses, continue to develop efficient irrigation systems to support all-year-round farming, continue to provide nucleus population of broiler parents as the sustainable source of day old chicks for the poultry industry with the support of EXIM GHANA and other financial institutions and support large-scale production of domestic poultry, establish hatcheries, feed mills and processing plants among other programmes.

Mr. Isaac Nanor Sawer is a poultry and livestock famer at Kpone in the Kpone-Katamanso District. He said the importation of poultry products is killing the local poultry industry. “It is a good idea that those who frame that law thought very deeply and the government must adhere strictly to that law-Petroleum Revenue Act. Yes! Parliament should see to it that government acts on the law. They should not allow them to use the money for something else. They must use it for the Agric sector.” Isaac Nanor Sawer a poultry famer at Kpone stated.

PIAC believes in Agriculture

In its 2015 report PIAC urged the Ministry of Finance not to only ensure that allocations to the Agriculture modernization gets disbursed but also ensure that the priority area retains its position on the priority sectors to benefit from the ABFA beyond 2016, adding that the 11 percent of total petroleum revenues allocated for the Agriculture sector described as the mainstay of the economy is inadequate. Well time will definitely tell if politicians will heed to suggestions and invest in agriculture so as to end the huge importation of food items into the country. Take a listen to the audio report

By Dominic Hlordzi
hlordzidominic@gmail.com