Thank you very much Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate, to thank His Excellency the President of the Republic for delivering the State of the Nation Address and to support the Motion ably moved by Hon Ablakwa Samuel Okudzeto.
Mr Speaker, I would like to start by stating that the State of the Nation Address was simple, delivered by a humble President, very detailed, travelled through the nook and cranny of the country and indeed, there was something for everybody, whoever and wherever you are. Simply put, the State of the Nation Address was brilliant.
I would want to state also that, the fact that some Ghanaians are not satisfied with the State of the Nation Address itself, is part of the state of the nation that whatever it is that is stated, you do not expect
everybody to be happy with what is said even by the President of the Republic.
Mr Speaker, I would like to debate this issue focussing on the agricultural sector and to state emphatically that, under President Mahama's watch and indeed, the NDC Government's watch, agriculture is on the rise.
Mr Speaker, the sector grew by less than one per cent in 2011 and went up to 2.3 per cent in 2012, 5.2 per cent in 2013, and provisionally put at 5.3 per cent in 2014. This is a sector that is growing.
Mr Speaker, it would be good to make some comparison, using specific commodities that constitute our food security crops, so that the issue can be put in context.
Between 2002 and 2007, cassava in this country grew by negative-0.3 per cent, maize grew by negative -2.0 per cent, rice grew by negative -3.9 per cent, and beans grew by negative -0.2 per cent.
Mr Speaker, between 2008 and 2013, cassava grew on average at seven per cent, maize grew on average three per cent, rice grew on average nine per cent and beans grew on average three per cent.
Mr Speaker, this growth in the last five years, clearly, is guaranteeing our food security as a country and it is important that we appreciate this as being the true state of our country when it comes to food security.
Mr Speaker, under President Mahama's watch, 2014 was dedicated to mobilising the human and material resources of this country to support the production of crops that would stop us from using hard earned foreign exchange to import the same crops that we have the competitive and the comparative advantage to
produce in this country. These included rice, tomato, poultry, fish and cooking oil, what was referred to as the “gang of five” in agricultural terms.
Mr Speaker, I would like to state that some successes have been achieved because an aggressive programme was put in place to mobilise the country to support the r ice production programme -- Collaboration Export Trade Agricultural and Industrial Development (EDIAF) and Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Bank of Ghana, Ministry of Trade and Industry, et cetera.
How did this happen? It happened by expanding and building more irrigation facilities, improving technology adaption and increased mechanisation. Mr Speaker, domestic rice production is increasing year by year. By 2011, this country produced 319,000 metric tonnes of milled rice, in 2012, 332,000 metric tonnes, in 2013, 393,000 metric tonnes and in 2014, provisionally put at 417 metric tonnes.
Mr Speaker, clearly, all these growth in the rice production sector is what is making the President to state emphatically that the rice import bill reduced between 2013 and 2014 by 41 per cent and reducing from USD 467 million in 2013 to USD 275.1 million in 2014.
Mr Speaker, the local rice that is now being produced by Ghanaians is currently being consumed by Ghanaians. I know many off- takers who are all over the place, who are looking for local rice to mill, so that they can send it to the market.
Mr Speaker, poultry production is on the increase. As of 2012, this country generated 57,000 metric tonnes of poultry. In 2013, 63,000 metric tonnes and 2014, provisionally put at 68,500 metric tonnes.
Clearly, if you look at the import side in 2011, this country imported 87,409 metric tonnes of poultry. In 2012, it went down to 75,160 metric tonnes; in 2013, it went down to 60,786 metric tonnes. That is exactly why the import bill on poultry has reduced by 30 per cent from USD 208 million to USD 149 million. This is the true state of agriculture in our country and this is the President who acts on his word by mobilising the resources of the country to support his brilliant programmes, so that our agricultural sector could be growing from time to time.
Mr Speaker, tomato was the next crop that we spent so much to import and the analysis of the tomato production system clearly indicates that there is the need for a complete revolution in the production system of tomatoes.
To change the production environ- ment, that is exactly why up to 150 envirodrums are being imported into the country, so that the production environment can change and then we can have safety and quality guarantee for tomato consumers within the country. This would definitely affect vegetables as well.
Mr Speaker, on the irrigation front, the Tolon and Vea Irrigation facilities in the Upper East Region and others are to be visited by massive --