Activities marking the 37th edition of the National Farmers Day have commenced earnestly in Cape Coast with the opening of an agricultural fair at the Adisadel College park.
Present at the function were the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mrs Hawa Koomson, and the Central Regional Minister, Mrs Justina Marigold Assan.
Also present were the Omanhen of the Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, who chaired the event, and the special guest, Ahunabobrim Pra Agyesiam VI.
The five-day fair and exhibition, a prelude to the activities, would be climaxed with the awards ceremony for farmers and fishermen on Friday.
The exhibitors from the various regions are showcasing agricultural produce, agro chemicals, farm implements and machinery and processed foods.
The first day of exhibition saw exhibitors from five regions including the Central, Western North, Northern, Bono and the Eastern regions showcasing various produce from their regions.
The Central Region for instance showcased the various food crops it produces, including cassava, rice, plantain, maize as well as products from aquaculture, while the Bono Region laid emphasis on aquaculture and other cash crops it was noted for.
The Bono Regional Extension Officer, Mr Isaac Adjei, stressed that the region remained the food basket of the country and that they were poised to work hard to continue contributing efficiently to economic growth.
“The new gold for the country is cashew, for which the Bono Region can confidently claim a comfortable lead and we would ensure that we sustain that and beef up efforts to get global recognition,” he said.
The Northern Region also showcased its leafy produce and other processed products from millet, which the region is noted for.
The Northern Regional Minister, Mr Shani Alhassan Saibu, touted his region as one of the agrarian regions in the country, which could contribute a great deal to the country’s GDP if role bearing institutions were strengthened.
The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Seth Kwame Acheampong, stated that the region was well positioned to contribute its quota towards economic development and that there were plans in place to support farmers to deliver.
The ongoing fair has also been incorporated with a newly developed Farm Market concept this year.
The initiative rolled out by the Central Regional Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast is to allow farmers to engage with their consumers without any interference from middlemen.
It would also allow farmers to get the right price for their produce while consumers on the other hand get value for their money.
The initiative is set to be implemented at the district level once every month with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Akoto, said the government was working to take advantage of improved technologies to enhance agricultural development and production.
He said while global economic challenges were affecting the price of agricultural inputs, the government and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) would work to ensure farmers were provided with subsidised inputs to help them increase food production to improve food security and food systems.
The Central Regional Minister, Mrs Assan, said in spite of the global downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the agriculture sector had been relatively welcoming to farmers and other stakeholders due to measures instituted by the government.
She charged farmers to make use of "the prudent measures and policies rolled out by the government, to increase their farms and increase incomes”.
Mrs Assan encouraged participants and individuals who thronged the fairground to patronise the various tourist sites in the region.
"As you have visited the heartbeat of Ghana's tourism, I would urge you to use the opportunity to patronise the numerous sites to help promote domestic tourism," she urged.
Some of the exhibitors who spoke to the Daily Graphic lamented series of challenges they encountered in transporting their produce to the exhibition centre.
They said the bad state of roads had almost hampered transportation of their produce and they appealed to the government to make efforts to urgently address the issue of bad road networks.
The Central Regional Agriculture Extension Officer, Ms Sarah Afful, said: “For some of the farmers in the hinterlands we had to provide a means of transportation for them and even that, some of the vehicles had to wait at a certain point for the farmers to carry their items to that place because road network is very bad.”
Other exhibitors at the fair called for attention to be focused on aquaculture, noting that it had become a supplementary means due to dwindling fish stocks.
“Aquaculture is gradually becoming the norm and we would appeal to the government to invest massively in the area to increase it or introduce subsidies to enable us to buy enough feed for our activities,” they said.
In response to the appeal, the Minister for fisheries and Aquaculture, Mrs Koomson, said the ministry was ready to sponsor organisations and individuals who were interested in venturing into aquaculture.
The Omanhen of the Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, in his welcome address, underscored the importance of agriculture, noting that it was one major economic activity that contributed a great deal to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
He said agriculture needed all the attention it deserved because it contributed about 30 to 60 per cent of the total GDP of African countries, adding "if we pay attention to this area, I believe we can make a headway towards becoming self-reliant and even creating employment avenues for our youth.
"Agriculture is very critical, so are our farmers, and so I would appeal to relevant stakeholders to urgently address some of the challenges they encounter to provide that enabling environment to continue giving their best in sustaining us," he said.