Cape Coast Oct. 23, GNA - Mr Gershon Wodzrah, the Central Regional Director of Food and Agriculture, has stressed the need for government not to neglect agricultural sector because of the oil and gas development.
He said oil and gas were not renewal resources and could finish at anytime and suggested that a substantive amount from the oil industry be invested in the agric sector to keep the economy running even at the time the oil wells would be dried up.
Mr Wodzrah gave the caution at a day’s stakeholder’s workshop in Cape Coast to address gaps in accessing citrus and lime markets in the country.
The workshop organized by the Cape Coast Citrus Farmers Cooperative Society Limited (CCFCLS) and sponsored by Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, was attended by more than 50 citrus farmer drawn from Cape Coast, Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese and Mfantsiman districts.
The workshop was to create awareness on the importance of citrus and lime industry to the economy in Ghana, highlight the plight of farmers and the challenges they face as well as to stimulate stakeholder interest in the citrus and lime sub sectors to push for a policy framework for the establishment of a citrus board.
He said agriculture played a vital role in the sustenance and development of any country and called on the government to adequately resource all the sectors in the ministry of Agriculture to help sustain and develop the sector.
Mr Wodzrah in this regard added his voice to calls for the creation of a “Citrus Board” to get ready market for citrus products just like what the Ghana Cocoa Board was doing for Cocoa farmers.
He said citrus products had a lot of economic potentials and stressed that when given the requisite support it would not only create jobs but could be a very reliable source of income for both farmers and the government.
The Regional Director, however, noted that it was not enough calling on the government to create a Citrus Board but that it was imperative for citrus farmers to endeavour to add value to their products and suggested that citrus farmers acquire simple fruits processing tools to produce juice for the local market.
He further said for the government to take the formation of the board seriously, citrus farmers should do proper networking that would bring all citrus farmers in the country under one umbrella to enable them come out with a strong document to support the need for the creation of a board.
Mr Wodzrah advised citrus farmers to implement the technical skills given to them by agric officers to improve upon the quality of their fruits, saying citrus from Ghana were not of good quality. The world market, he added, was changing and people now preferred quality to quantity.
Mr Paul Ainoo, Chairman of the Cape Coast Citrus Farmers Cooperative Society limited (CCFCSL), appealed to the government to as a matter of urgency put in place a policy framework for the establishment of an institution that would be responsible for the development and promotion of citrus and lime.
He said due to the lack of a vibrant market and a body to manage the sector, most citrus and lime farmers had either cut down their citrus trees or had altogether deserted citrus farming for other means of livelihood. Others, he said, were also contemplating abandoning citrus farming for other ventures.
Mr Ainoo said a citrus Board would help to streamline all citrus farming activities and improve upon the negotiation power of citrus farmers and also go a long way to empower them.
Mr Ainoo said in addition the board would have positive impacts on the standard of living of the farmers, boost the local economy, generate employment and contribute to poverty alleviation in the Central Region as well as contribute significantly to the country’s foreign exchange earnings and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mr Ato Van-Ess, a trainer with the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC Fund), said the Fund would continue to give citrus farmers the requisite advocacy training to enable them address gaps in accessing citrus market.
Mr Van-Ess called for the establishment of a processing plant, upgrading of farming practices as well as dealing directly with final users of the produce instead of using middle men and market queens who only worsen the plight of the farmers by buying fruits at throw away prices.