Dr. Percival Kuranchie, the Managing Director of National Investment Bank, has appealed to policy makers to ensure that substantial amount of the country’s oil revenue is channelled into agriculture.
He said even though the government had been doing a lot to support the sector, this had not been enough due to scarcity of resources.
Dr. Kuranchie made the call in a speech read for him at the 4th graduation and 5th matriculation ceremony of Wenchi campus of the Faculty of Agriculture of the Methodist University College of Ghana (MUCG) in Wenchi.
The twin ceremony was under the theme: "Managing the oil reserves for agricultural development in Ghana in the face of global climate changes".
A total of 73 new students took the matriculation oath to pursue Bachelor of Science degree in General Agriculture, diploma in General Agriculture, certificates in agro-processing and horticulture, whilst degrees, diplomas and certificates were conferred on 26.
Dr Kuranchie explained that one very important upshot of the oil industry was gas generation, which could be harnessed to establish a chemical fertilizer factory that could serve the whole of West Africa.
"The resultant advantage of locally produced fertilizer, coupled with possible substantial subsidy outlays can make Ghana’s agriculture produce highly competitive on the world market", he said.
Dr. Kuranchie noted with regret that "to date most of the agro-producers aare still peasant farmers who use cutlasses and hoes working on land size not more than three hectares per person on the average."
"With oil wealth, the value chain concept can be fully embraced and computer-literate agriculture graduates from tertiary institutions financed via enhanced venture capital portfolios to go into the establishment of tree crop plantations, large scale vegetable farms fitted with irrigation facilities, animal husbandry/pasture development as well as aquaculture and agro-processing", he said.
Dr. Kuranchie said observed that the internationally accepted ratio of extension officer to farmer was 1:500 but Ghana’s was 1:1,500.
He said the Ghana Extension Service could be supported to introduce mobile telephony into its working schemes with farmers as a way of helping improve its service delivery capacity.
"Special mobile phones can be designed and distributed free of charge to all farmers to allow them to communicate with extension officers", Dr. Kuranchie said, adding, a substantial resource from the oil industry could also be channelled regularly to the research sub-system.
Dr. Kuranchie said private universities did not receive scholarships for the training of their lecturers from the government and the oil wealth should be able to bring some relief in this regard by supporting private universities with scholarships for lecturers to undertake advanced agricultural studies in countries known for their excellent track records in the sector.
He appealed to university authorities to convert the Wenchi market into an excellent commodity exchange platform where maize and other commodities would be graded and sold according to weight, using scales.
This, Dr. Kuranchie said, would be the onset of fair trade at both the farmer-market woman and market woman-consumer interface.
He noted with regret that as at now there were no incentives for farmers who want to invest in quality produce because the local commodity exchange platform standards were mixed and not well defined.
The Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel K. Asante, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, said 65 percent of the Ghanaian population are farmers and majority of them are poor because they still depend on rudimentary ways of farming.
He expressed the hope that the government would invest sizeable portion of the oil revenue into agriculture in such a way as would benefit those farmers in order to help them out of the poverty bracket.
Most Rev. Prof. Asante who is the Chairman of the Council of MUCG expressed appreciation for the collaborative work of corporate bodies like the University of Ghana, Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) and the Ministry of Agriculture for the development of the university.
The Very Rev. Prof. Samuel K. Adjepong, Principal of the MUCG, said even though the faculty had made good progress since it was established five years ago, it found itself in an environment of low volume and poor quality agricultural production, which made farmers unable to compete on both local and international markets.
This, he said, underscored the need to embark on capacity building of all stakeholders of the agricultural sector in order to pave the way for poverty reduction and sustainable increased agricultural production.
Very Rev. Adjepong said the faculty was currently focusing on increasing the volume of agricultural production, quality of farm produce as well as linking producers to both local and international markets, among others.