The Managing Director of Yara Ghana Limited has mounted strong defence for government’s move to increase fertilizer use to boost farming in the country, as he rejects long-held perception linking fertilizer use to the low life expectancy rate in Ghana.
Danquah Addo-Yobo contends that while globally the average use of fertilizer is 130 kilograms per hectare, the sub Saharan Africa is doing just 16 kilograms per hectare.
He was speaking to 3news.com at a three-day West Africa Fertilizer Agribusiness conference in Accra organised by the Commodities Research Unit (CRU) in partnership with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP).
Yara Ghana is therefore working with farmers to close the “big gap” in fertilizer use by letting people see farming as a business in order to improve its profitability, he said. “The interesting thing is take Africa, then take West Africa and Ghana and take Europe and let’s look at the fertilizer application ratio in those countries.
Sub Saharan Africa is averagely about 16 kilograms per hectare, Europe is doing 160 kilograms per hectare.
“That means there is heavy fertilizer application in Europe, you can look at statistics of mortality in Europe and West Africa, you can realise that the argument in Africa that fertilizer people are dying is not true because then people in Europe should be dying much earlier than people in Africa.”
The average number of years to be lived by a group of people born in the same year, if mortality at each age remains constant in the future, in Ghana is 66.6 years, United Kingdom 80.7 years, Germany 80.7 years, France, 81.8 years, Netherlands, 81.3 years.
This is based on 2016 statistics of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Fact Book.
Mr. Addo-Yobo admitted that the crusade to get more farmers to use fertilizer has largely been slow due to over-reliance on the central government for free or subsidised fertilizer.
“Governments in West Africa have preached free and cheap to the farmers, but the farmers’ mentality is to wait for a free government fertilizer and government cannot give every farmer in the market fertilizer.
So the farmer is trained to expect it for free, so the farmer is not trained to realise that he needs to have a business mindset about his farming and if he spent on his farming it would be more profitable.
“People preach cost instead of preaching farmer profitability, and if your preach cost you don’t develop the farmer. I think that is why we have a big gap and of course accessibility and availability of the product ,” he analysed.
GNPC AND FERTILIZER PRODUCTION
Currently fertilizer is not produced in Ghana due to the capital intensity and most companies like Yara only import the components and blend them locally.
Mr. Addo-Yobo is therefore hopeful the decision by the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC)to go into fertlizer production will improve accessibilty, and he indicated his company’s readiness to collaborate with GNPC. With ‘knowledge grows’ as its tagline, Yara Ghana, he said, has not relent on transforming its strong knowledge base acquired through researches to farmers.
It therefore organises regular field days and demonstrations with farmers, training and recommending to them best farming practices with the ultimate goal of transferring knowledge to these farmers.
“We know that it is possible for the farmer to be profitable, and it is very important that the farmer gets that mindset, and we have the fertilizer solutions that have been tested with farmers in this country to show that the farmer can be extremely profitable in what they do if they use the Yara fertilizers and they use them in the right way,” he advised farmers.
Addressing the conference held from July 10 to 12, Chairman of the Ghana Cocoa Board responded, Mr. Hackman Owusu Agyeman indicated that government is recommending increased fertilizer use to promote the regeneration of the depleted soils in order to boost yields.
“Farmers were expected to benefit from intensifying their production systems through, among others, increasing fertilizer use to reap higher returns from their cocoa activities and enhance their livelihoods.”