Yes, Mr. Speaker. So Mr. Speaker, let us move on to food production. The evidence throughout the world is that in order to develop, you should be able to feed your country as much as possible. In other words, you should achieve a very high degree of self-sufficiency. If you look at all the countries that have developed, they take food for granted. They have increased their food production to a level of self- sufficiency or near self-sufficiency, so that they do not import much.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we all know that our farmers when they produce more, because food is an inelastic commodity, they tend to suffer in terms of revenue; and to add salt to injury, the cost of production has been going up so high.
If you look at last year's increase in the price of fertilizer alone, fertilizer prices increased by between 100 per cent and 172 per cent in one year, according to the State of the Ghanaian Economy report, page 120. Those who want to write that down can do so. So let us do something about food production.
But we realize, Mr. Speaker, that in the Budget we talk about modernizing agriculture through just mechanization, without thinking of the complementary inputs that wi l l accompany the mechanization, in order to bring about the productivity that we are all looking for, and in order to ensure that our staple foods are produced in sufficient quantities for us to move ahead and develop. Because, if we do not eat well we are not going to develop properly. If we wake up, sitting and thinking about food, then we are not going to have time to do other things. So let us ensure that we move our food production forward.
Mr. Speaker, it is also the same thing with the fishing industry. Our per capita consumption of fish has been going down. In the early 1970s, it was about 55 kilograms per person, per annum. Today, it is around 20 kilograms per person and yet fish is a major source of protein in this country, particularly for the rural folk.
Let us pay attention to fish production because in other countries, because we -- [Interruption] - Because we have over-fished our marine sources we ought to pay more attention to aqua culture. But this Budget does not talk much about that, apart from hatcheries that would be done. We should encourage the establishment of modern fish -- aqua culture farms.
Mr. Speaker, I want to link to peri- urban agriculture. In the not too distant
past, I was part of a survey in the Weija area for the establishment of aqua culture farms. Today, Mr. Speaker, if you go there, that place which was earmarked for agriculture has been converted into buildings. This is not good for our development. In fact, as our capital city Accra grows, it has to depend on cheap sources of food, and yet we are making use of good agricultural land which is designed and supported by irrigation, to build houses.
It is not good for the development of our country, because the bottom line is that this country must be well fed. Yet, if you look at the food security indices, you would see that countries like Burkina Faso, which are supposed to be poor, are better fed than we are. They are more secure in terms of food security than we are. So let us pay attention to that.
Mr. Speaker, I also have a problem with the location of agricultural sector in the Budget. I have raised this point and if you look at page 111, paragraph 354, Mr. Speaker, I crave your indulgence to read this:
“In this regard, the Ministry will not only formulate policies but will continue to actively assist and support the private sector in agro processing, equipment develop- ment and fabrication . . . ”
You see, “actively assist and support the private sector”, which is pre-supposing that the agricultural sector is not part of the private sector. And in any case, all contemporary agricultural development models show that agriculture stands alone and the private sector and the public sector then assist the agricultural sector. You then find out how you can assist the agricultural sector to grow. I am completely lost -- when it suits you, agriculture is in the private sector; when it does not suit you, the private sector is different from agriculture.