Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has secured a loan of more than $216 million to purchase and import farm machinery to support farmers under its flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs.
The facility, which comprises $150 million from the Exim Bank of India and $66 million from the Brazilian government, has been approved by the Cabinet and Parliaments.
Another $20 million is being worked on from the Exim Bank of the Czech Republic to bring the total amount to $236 million.
It is by far the biggest infusion of investment in farm machinery in the country which seeks to enable the government to modernise and transform the agricultural sector.
The machinery, including tractors and hand-held agricultural implements suitable for smallholder farmers, will be imported from India and Brazil.
In an interview in Accra, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said the machinery would mostly be used for land preparation, sowing, farm maintenance, harvesting and primary processing.
Giving a breakdown, he said machinery valued at $66 million would be procured from Brazil, while machinery worth $150 million would be imported from India in the next 12 months.
“Apart from the core inputs of improved seeds and fertiliser, bringing this farm machinery designed mainly to suit smallholders will improve efficiency and farm work,” Dr Akoto explained.
He said the move would boost the productivity and yields of smallholder farmers and gave an assurance that the agricultural sector would undergo an appreciable level of transformation in the next 24 months relative to farm machinery, improved seeds and fertiliser.
He said the Planting for Food and Jobs programme was intended to modernise agriculture through the adoption of new technology, even though extension services “are still very insignificant”.
He said the ministry was in the process of hiring 2,700 new extension officers who would be the link between farmers and technology.
“To complement new technology in terms of marketing, we are constructing 80 warehouses, each with 1,000 metric-tonne capacity, in strategic locations,” Dr Akoto added.
He said the construction of the warehouses was captured in the 2017/2018 budget.
He said the ministry was also rehabilitating all the 27 food distribution warehouses closed down during the previous administration, which had a capacity of 32,000 tonnes.
He said during visits to three regions recently, he and his entourage inspected some of the warehouses still under construction, adding that the target of the ministry was to reach 200,000 tonnes capacity.
Dr Akoto projected a bumper harvest this year on the basis of the fact that a number of farmers had signed onto the Planting for Food and Jobs programme.