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Ghana to Cut $2.2 Billion Bill With Farm Support, President Says

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A farmer inspects the damage to his corn crop caused by fall armyworms, also known as Spodoptera frugiperda, on his farm north of Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. The fall armyworms that have ravaged corn fields from Ghana to South Africa since arriving on the continent last year could spread to Asia and the Mediterranean, a research body said.

Ghana has a target of supporting one million farmers in the next four years with plans to invest in agriculture as the West African nation seeks to increase trade and cut its reliance on food imports that cost about $2.2 billion annually.

While Ghana is the world’s second-biggest cocoa producer, it imports more than two-thirds of the staples such as wheat and rice that it needs, according to the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The promotion of agriculture is a key policy of the 11-month old government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, who also pledged to support the building of factories in each of Ghana’s 216 districts.

The nation of 28 million people’s food import bill is “simply scandalous,” Akufo-Addo, 73, said Monday at the Africa Business Media Innovators conference, which is sponsored by Bloomberg and is taking place in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

“Initially, 200,000 farmers have been targeted in the program and they are going to be given support with inputs, fertilizers, insecticides and assistance from extension officers,” Akufo-Addo said. “We believe we can scale that, hopefully, so that at the end of my first term in 2021 we will have about a million Ghanaian farmers involved in the program.”

Chronic Unemployment

Investment in agriculture will alleviate chronic youth unemployment in the country, Akufo-Addo said. Almost half of those between 15 and 24 years don’t have jobs, according to data from the Ghana Statistical Service.

“If this young population is not put into constructive activity, there is the possibility of considerable insecurity and incoherence in the future of our continent,” Akufo-Addo said. “The need to harness the energies of this young population is key to the total development of our continent.”

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