Former Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has stated that when offered the needed impetus, agriculture has the biggest potential than any other resource to turn around the fortunes of the country.
He explained that when given the nod to be the country’s President, he would provide the required resources and tap the willingness of the ever-ready and hardworking Ghanaian farmer to ensure that the potential of the sector was reaped for the socio-economic development of the nation.
Dr Akoto, who recently resigned as the Minister of Food and Agriculture, stated this when he interacted with editors and senior journalists from across the country in Accra on Saturday.
Dr Akoto used the interaction to brief the media on a public lecture he would address on the “Future of the Ghanaian Economy” at the University of Professional Studies-Accra (UPSA) today at 2 p.m.
He made it clear that the Akufo-Addo-led government had done exceptionally well, but had been hit by global crises, noting: “I am still a very strong supporter of this government and still working for the government, though not at post”.
The two-time former Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso said the success story of the Planting for Food and Jobs was attributed to the prioritisation of public resources to the agricultural sector by the NPP government led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Having worked with the United Nations for close to two decades, Dr Akoto said he had had the opportunity to visit most of the countries around the world and it was on that basis that he classified the Ghanaian farmer as a hardworking person, who will go above and beyond when given even the tiniest incentive.
“This is a source that must be exploited to the hilt. If their willingness and hard work are better exploited, the country and the farmers themselves would benefit immensely,” he added.
Touching on his brainchild, the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), he said his experience with the implementation of the programme was that it gave subsidies to farmers in the form of seeds and fertilisers.
He said to have a clear and empirical picture of the farmers in the country, he held an agriculture census in 2018, the first such censuses in 28 years, which indicated that there were 3.1 million full-time farmers in the country.
Dr Akoto said the PFJ, by 2021, had benefitted 1.7 million farmers, which propelled agriculture to produce the highest growth rate of 8.4 per cent, in the Fourth Republic.
He added that during the COVID-19 period, when countries were in lockdown, Ghana’s agriculture sector recorded a growth rate of 7.4 per cent, because PFJ was working.
“The Ghanaian farmer is somebody else; a resource, sitting and waiting to be exploited. For me, the future of this country’s economy is to give the incentive to these farmers to produce the surpluses and foreign exchange that will finance industrial development, education, health and all,” Dr Akoto added.
He said the Tree Crop Development Authority, which he guided till its establishment, when implemented fully, could yield between six and 12 billion dollars annually, more than the three billion dollars the country was going to seek from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He said with the right resources, the Tree Crop Development Authority, just as the Ghana Cocobod, would yield resources that would be enough to execute the country’s development agenda without reaching out to other nations and bodies for loans.