The Government of Ghana intends to support the Western Region to realize the potential of its oil palm starting from 2013 by the implementation of two new oil palm outgrower schemes in the region with Feasibility studies scheduled to start in 2012. This was announced by Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister for Food and Agriculture in Sekondi – Tarkoradi, when he presented a paper on the topic “Exploring the full potential of agriculture in Western Region” at one of the dialogues sessions of the Western Regional Policy Fair.
He further said, government has already engaged Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) to finance the schemes, which is expected to help 750 farmers to cultivate 3,000 hectares of oil palm.
The Western Region currently has 94,000 hectares of oil palm which is 28% of the country’s total oil palm holdings. This is only 7% of the region’s agricultural land area. The development of this crop in the region has suffered because of the inaccessibility of planting materials by farmers. The planting materials are either too expensive or even when a farmer has money to buy good planting materials they are difficult to find. This problem has resulted in low yields and low farmers’ incomes.
Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi added that, government in this respect will launch Ghana’s Oil Palm Development Master Plan next month which will support the development of new 10,000 hectares nucleus plantation with a 40,000 hectares outgrower scheme for the next 15 years. He indicated also that, government was hopeful to accomplish this feat before 2027 in the Prestea-Huni Valley District where the land is expected to be easily available.
In the area of rubber, Hon. Ahwoi, indicated that, before 1995, the Western region had a total of 12,000ha of rubber plantations – almost all being estate.
However, Government in seeing the potential in natural rubber sourced sovereign loans from the World Bank and AFD in 1995 to start the Rubber Outgrower Plantations Project around GREL.
He further added that, the success of the Government supported ougrower schemes has given confidence to Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) to support the development of additional 10,500ha with a non-sovereign loan.
According to the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, the Government’s initiative in exposing the region’s potential in rubber production has therefore resulted in the increase in rubber cultivation from 12,000ha in 1995 to more than 30,000ha currently.
He however added that, the potential for crop’s development in the region is immense and with Government having shown the potential through the outgrower schemes, the way is now clear for the private sector to continue exploiting the immense potential of the crop in the region. This is a crop that needs not only a well-drained soil but also rainfall levels that the region has.
Touching on Coconut production in the region, Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, said, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with Oil Palm Research Institute under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-OPRI) have been producing the Sri Lankan Green Dwarfs (SGD) x Vanuatu Tall (VTT) hybrid variety since 1995.
According to him, Research trials conducted by CSIR-OPRI over the past 17 years have confirmed the resistance of this hybrid variety to the Cape Saint Paul’s Wilt Disease (CSPWD) – which have devastated over 14,000 hectares out of the 43,000 hectares of coconut plantations. The Ministry is currently producing the SGD x VTT planting materials for farmers.
The Honourable Minister on the occasion of the World Food Day last October, personally launched a new Restoration of Livelihood to Coconut Farmers Project at Bronyikrom in the Shama District to help farmers to replant their CSPWD destroyed plantations.
The new project, he said, apart from providing free planting materials to farmers who have lost their farms to CSPWD, will also support other farmers to access planting materials at a subsidized price. More than 1,050ha of CSPWD destroyed farms belonging to 1,000-already-registered-farmers in the Shama and Nzema East Districts will be replanted. Unaffected farmers will also have the opportunity to plant 1000ha from subsidized planting materials.
Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, however admitted that, the speed of replanting is slow because the current existing seed gardens are only 30ha and can produce only as much seedlings. However, the project will address the small seedlings production base by establishing an additional 10ha Sri Lankan Green Dwarf (SGD) seed garden.
Under roots and tuber i.e. cassava and all other root and tuber crops which are classified as traditional food security and cash crops in Ghana. Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, said, Western Region is a potential high producer of root and tubers considering its soil fertility and rainfall pattern.
According to him, close to 40% of roots and tubers produced are accounted for as post-harvest losses yearly and this is due to lack of processing and storage capacity.
It is in this respect that, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme RTIMP) is being implemented in six (6) districts viz. Aowin Suaman, Bia, Bibiani, Juaboso, Sefwi Wiawso and Mpohor Wassa East, in the Western Region with some interventions to address these post-harvest losses.
He indicated that, to ensure that small-scale farmers and small-scale processors derive maximum benefits from MOFA/RTIMP interventions, the RTIMP in collaboration with the District/Municipal Agriculture Development Units (DADUs/MADUs) are identifying strategic processing enterprises that can be upgraded to Good Practices Centres (GPCs) which will serve as hub of the cassava value chain and by absorbing raw cassava from farmers to process, enhancing marketing of cassava in value added, high quality products such as gari, starch, flour, tapioca, chips etc. at premium prices in both local and export markets.
The Minister used the platform to talk about a new programme known across the world as “Agro-Incubation Programme” to be implemented in five (5) different Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Ahanta West, Jomoro, Nzema East, Shama, and Sekondi within the Western Region and expected to commence with five hundred (500) different farmers with each MMDA providing one hundred (100) farmers. Accordingly, the programme will establish an Agro-Incubator centre (fitted with heavy Agricultural processing equipment such as Washers, Sterilizer, Chillers and Vegetable Packaging Machinery) to be located within the Ellembelle District which will primarily concentrate on developing the vegetable sector and will serve as a processing point for all vegetable growers in the Western Region and subsequently nationwide.
According to Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, this programme will be a special initiative under the Government’s Youth In Agriculture Programme (YIAP) and will generate agriculture entrepreneurship spirit among Ghanaians in the Agriculture sector.
On Fisheries development in the Western Region, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, cited the building of landing sites at Axim and Dixcove with funds under the Chinese $3.0 billion loan sourced by his Excellency President John Evans Atta Mills: Funds have also finally been secured for the construction of these landing beaches which will have adequate facilities for berthing and handling, storage: Construction of Three (3) cold stores which are at various development stages at Shama, New Takoradi and Half Assini: Purchased of 4 naval vessels for the Ghana Navy for regular patrols, surveillance and control purposes which will ensure the enforcement of the Fisheries Law and Regulations and: The Introduction of Sonar Fish Finders to the fishermen as some of the interventions being pursued by government in the fisheries sub-sector.
The potential of livestock was also identified by the Honourable Minister and the high rainfall in the region supports the growth of enough fodder all year round for animal feed. The by-products from the processed oil palm, coconut and cocoa pods produced currently in substantial amounts but which are currently wasted can be good feed for piggery and poultry.
He entreated all to apply ourselves to converting the potentials into actual since its only when potentials are translated into actual that it becomes of value.