BY TANKO MOHAMMED RABIU
As Ghana congratulates and award farmers today in Bolgatanga in the upper east region, a lot of farmers’, agriculture experts and energy experts are calling on the government to invest heavily in agriculture from the oil revenues. This according to them agriculture contributes faster to poverty reduction than does industrial investments. Agricultural spending has wider redistributive effect citing some examples; Indonesia used its oil rents to supply fertilizer to farmers and develop new crops, building the basis for the country’s green revolution. They also invested heavily in agricultural research to identify new commodities that could improve on export potential. Malaysia invested its oil revenues into forestry and palm oil, building very successful industries. Chile, used proceeds from copper to invest into new agricultural commodities, such as salmon, a product that had not been part of the country’s export products before and other countries who are also using oil revenues to improve in agriculture.
At the height of the global financial and economic crises in 2007, Ghana discovered oil and gas in commercial quantities estimated at 1.8 billion barrels reserves. In spite of the modest production levels, oil has now become the second largest export of Ghana – US$2.7 billion in 2011 to US$3 billion in 2012; following gold and overtaking cocoa since then. Ghana is also gradually becoming a net exporter of crude oil with oil imports of US$3.3 billion in 2012 versus oil exports of US$3 billion. Over the last 4 years, Ghana earned about US$2.7 billion in revenues to the state. With new discoveries being developed, Ghana could earn more from its share of crude oil. With increasing oil revenues as a result, many are skeptical if Ghana can avoid the curse of oil and transform its oil wealth into positive development outcomes
In Ghana, research has shown that at the national level, agricultural public expenditures have the highest returns in terms of agricultural productivity. For one marginal cedi invested in agriculture, GH¢16.8 is returned, feeder roads – GH¢8.8, Health – GH¢1.3. In spite of the potential of this sector to contribute to the country’s development, there continue to exist a wide funding gap in public expenditure. Agricultural share of public spending is currently at 8.5%, which has been insufficient to generate the levels of growth that would reduce poverty levels significantly. This is lesser than the Maputo Declaration of a minimum spending of 10%. If Ghana is to become a full middle-income country by 2015 and see decline in poverty rates of almost 70 percent, the share of agricultural expenditure in public spending would have to almost double from the current 8.5 to 14.1 percent.
Nevertheless, Allocation of oil revenues to agriculture was increased in the 2014 Budget from GHS20 million in 2013 to GHS136 million in 2014. Agriculture share of oil revenues were allocated to investments focused on small holder farming but farmers are asking for more improvement in the sector. In a telephone interview with the 1996 national best farmer Aloko Dongo who is still in active farming expressed his dissatisfaction on the declining state of agriculture saying farmers do not have access to credit facilities to enhance in their activities. He said many a times a lot of farmers commit suicide after failing to pay back loans taken from financial institutions and said lack of access to market, storage facilities and disease control.
Speaking to Dr. Amin Adam, the executive director for Africa center for energy policy, ACEP, in an exclusive interview after his presentation on political economy of Ghana’s oil and gas sector/follow the money at a media training for journalist in the extractive sector, said agriculture is the easiest way to reduce poverty in Ghana looking at the scope of the agriculture industry where the sector has more working force. He said there is the need for more citizen participation in decision making process I the oil and gas sector so as to benefit the poor and the vulnerable.
On the morning of the national farmers’ day celebration, TV3’s morning show “new day” hosted O.B Amoah, a member of the NPP, John abdulai Jinapor deputy minister of power and a member of the CPP. All the panelists reiterated the need for government to invest more of the oil revenue to agriculture and mean while John Jinapor said despite these challenges, government is investing a lot in agricultural industrialization from different funding sources examples like the fomenda sugar factory, shea butter factory at Buipe, rice mills in Tamale and Nasia.
According to the 2015 budget, 3.95% of the total budget went to agriculture and only 1.39% was spent and in the 2106 budget it declined to 3.5% which according to agriculture expert is not encouraging and not good for a developing country like Ghana. An amount of GHC 501,501, 708.00 is allocated to the agriculture ministry representing 3.5%.
Most of the farmers I spoke to want more share of the oil revenue to agriculture because agriculture is the most easiest way to reduce poverty and the only sector where the poor can make livelihood from without huge investments.
The table below shows how oil revenues were allocated to agriculture from 2012 to 2013
ALLOCATION OF OIL REVENUES TO AGRICULTURE
A DECLINING TREND
SECTORS ABFA 2012 RANK ABFA 2013
|Office of the President
|Parliament of Ghana
|Finance and Economic Planning
|Food & Agriculture
|Lands & Natural Resources
|Trade & Industry
|Envir, Science & Technology
|Tourism and Culture
|Water Resources, Wrks & Housing
|Roads and Highways
|Employment & Social Welfare
|Youth & Sports
SOURCE; AFRICA CENTER FOR ENERGY POLICY, ACEP