The Government will next year launch the livestock version of the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta has announced.
The initiative to be called "Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ)", is to increase livestock production, especially poultry.
Mr Ofori-Atta, who disclosed this in Accra yesterday when he presented the 2019 budget statement and economic policy of government to Parliament, said the move was to reduce the country's food and poultry import.
This year's budget statement, the third and first post International Monetary Fund budget under the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo administration, is on the theme "A Stronger Economy for Jobs and Prosperity."
The Minister of Finance explained that the country spends more than $2 billion on food import, which was a serious financial drain on the economy, stressing that "we believe we can leverage the PFJ and the RFJ programmes and our other efforts in agriculture to reduce our large food imports."
"For example, we import over a billion dollars of rice, $320 million of sugar, and $374 million of poultry. Most of these we could produce here; creating jobs and saving for foreign exchange. It is therefore a key goal of government to replace significant fraction of these imports with domestic production in the medium term," he said.
With respect to rice, Mr Ofori-Atta said the strategy was to increase production through increased yields of rice by expanding production areas in irrigated schemes, valleys and low lands around the country.
"This strategy will be underpinned by making available to farmers, improved and certified seeds, subsidised fertilisers, enhances access to mechanised harvesters, to reduce post harvest losses due to traditional labour-intensive threshing," he said.
In the case of poultry, the Minister of Finance indicated about 70 per cent of cost of production was due to feed and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was working on a project to increase soybean production.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta disclosed that the PFJ would be expanded next year to cover one million farmers due to the massive success the programme had achieved.
He said about 577,000 farmers benefited from the programme this year, more than the 500,000 farmers the government targeted.
He indicated that the beneficiary farmers were supplied with subsidised fertilisers and seeds for the 2018 cropping season.
Mr Ofori-Atta said cabinet had approved the formation of a Tree Crop Development Authority to regulate and create a favourable environment for the growth and development of that sector and added that government next year intended to increase its warehouse storage facility by 80,000 metric tonnes.
"Our strategy was to revamp the agriculture sector which grew by 8.4 per cent in 2017 from about 3.5 per cent in 2016," he said.
On education, the Minister of Finance said the sector was expected to witness the largest capital expenditure for any single year in the last 50 years.
He said the government had presented to Parliament, a proposal to secure up to $1.5 billion long-term financing for GETFund on the back of a portion of VAT receivables for education infrastructure, especially to complete the numerous uncompleted buildings in secondary and tertiary institutions around the country.
"In 2019, government will commence work to upgrade 10 Technical Universities and Polytechnics and 13 Technical Institutes with modern equipment and also train selected lecturers for these institutions," he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the government would commence the construction of 20 state-of-the-art technical and vocation education centres as well as upgrade and retool 34 vocational training institutes.
"As part of government's drive to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics STEM education across all levels, government will in 2019 roll out the BSTEM programme in 7,000 basic schools across the country, construct 10 STEM centres; initiate the development of a knowledge cloud to make educational materials content accessible to all; and provide multimedia laboratories as well as internet connectivity to cover many more schools," he said.