“When the PFJ started this year, our target was to register and support 200,000 farmers across the country with improved seeds, fertiliser and other technical support services but as of the end of October, we had exceeded that target by almost 2,000.
“This is a huge success that has given us more encouragement to scale up the coverage to 500,000 farmers and also add crops such as groundnuts and cassava by the end of 2018,” he said.
Dr Akoto added that the ministry was collaborating with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr David Asante-Apietu, to clamp down on the activities of encroachers of agricultural lands to make more land available to scale up the project.
Dr Afriyie Akoto made the pronouncements during a working visit to some agriculture projects under the PFJ policy in the Greater Accra and Volta regions.
The first port of call by the minister was the greenhouse site located at Dawhenya, where he interacted with 30 university graduates who are understudying the improved agricultural technologies with Agritop, an Israeli company.
At the greenhouse site, vegetables such as cucumber, eggplants, chilly pepper and tomatoes were being cultivated under improved technology.
In the Volta Region, the team interacted with farmers under the PFJ at the Aveyime Rice Farms, the Praire Volta yard and its fields and the solar pump station in the area.
The team also visited the Lower Volta rice fields, including the Gadco Mill site, RMG Ghana Limited and Copa Rice Seed Production fields to have first-hand information on the activities of the operators and farmers.
Some of the farmers expressed concern about the encroachment of agricultural lands by estate developers and other people.
The farmers were also worried that out of the about 200,000 hectares of irrigable land in the area, only 54 hectares had been developed.
They also complained about the lack of machinery to produce on a large scale.
The Project Manager of the Aveyime Rice Scheme, Mr Samuel Debrah, for instance, said even though the PFJ had whipped up the interest of the youth in rice farming this year, the encroachment of the lands and limited developed fields were major hurdles to clear.
Responding to the concerns, Dr Akoto gave an assurance that the government would continue to collaborate with the private sector and the relevant stakeholders to surmount all obstacles to boost rice production in the country.
He said it was unacceptable that a country with a huge potential to produce rice on commercial basis should be importing the commodity with scarce resources.
“The about $100 million that this country spends in importing rice could be used for other development projects such as roads, hospitals and the free senior high school (SHS) policy.
“The current situation is a bad sign that agriculture is not doing well at all but we are encouraging the youth to get involved in the sector, so that with the right support we can change the narrative,” he said.