Mr Speaker, agriculture is the mainstay of this country's economy. If it is done well, the problems confronting this country, would not have occurred.
Mr Speaker, there is the need for us to concentrate on financing and marketing. In the area of production, farmers are always ready early morning to go to their farms and do the planting. But when it comes to the area of marketing and also financing, this is where the problem lies.
Mr Speaker, in a country where the interest rate is now about thirty per cent and farmers and the banks consider farming as a risky business, it is about time the Government gives priority and also, concessionary rates to farmers.
Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) was established to take care of the interest of farmers, but what do we see? They have turned the bank into a commercial bank instead of providing services to farmers.
Also, if you look at the statistics available, people involved in farming activities, I mean the farmers, in terms of age, are about fifty five to sixty years. There is need for us to encourage the youth into agriculture. I am glad the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has the Youth in Agriculture programme. But how is it implemented?
Agriculture needs organisation. Are the youth organised to take up farming? Agriculture needs finances. Is the Government providing finance to the youth to take up farming? What is provided here, the crops which the Ministry targeted, five crops; maize, soya beans, rice, and so forth.
Mr Speaker, all these crops, I do not think we have reached the area where we can say, we are self-sufficient on these crops. In fact, if we take rice where we are supposed to compete favourably with other West African countries, we are still
not doing well, for a reason, we have not put enough money in the rice production.
Where we have put in money is the road sector. There is no way the farmer is going to harvest his crops when the roads are bad. After harvesting, he needs to market his food crops and if the roads are bad, there is no way the farmer can carry his food crop from the farm gate to the urban cities and the market centres. So, Mr Speaker, there is a need for Government to link the road sector with the food growing areas.
Mr Speaker, again, irrigation. There is a need for all Governments to take irrigation seriously. Over the years, we talked about Accra Plains, the plains are still there. Not much has been done in the Accra Plains to support farmers, especially, farmers who are doing rice farming.
If we do well in providing the irrigation, then I think the rice that we are hoping for, in the near future, we would stop importing rice and we would be able to achieve that but unfortunately, we have not done much for irrigation.
Mr Speaker, the markets. There is need to develop our urban markets and also, our rural markets. Not just markets, markets that involve marketing and processing so that we can set up Celtic industries to support the youth, who always come to the cities to search for jobs which are not there.
Mr Speaker, with these few words, I support the Report presented by the Public Accounts Committee.