Business News of Mon, 19 Dec 20162
Policymakers urged to review farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizer
A new study into the access to quality inputs by Ghanaian farmers has called on policy makers to re-evaluate the existing distribution of fertiliser subsidy and the channels for obtaining improved seeds.
The study, which commissioned by the Peasant Association of Ghana (PFAG), was conducted by Professor Joseph Yaro of the Department of Geography and Resource Development at the University of Ghana and Joseph Teye, a senior lecturer at the same university, revealed that most Ghanaian farmers were not using improved seeds, or when they do, the seeds were not certified seeds.
The effect of this is low productivity and poor yields, translating into a low financial reward for the farmer.
“[Farmers] are mainly recycling old seeds or they make their own seeds. So as a result, input shops stock very little certified seeds because farmers are not buying,” said Professor Yaro at a validation workshop on the findings of the study. The event took place at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in Accra on Friday, December 16, 2016.
The study, which was conducted in selected regions in the country also found that farmers’ access to subsidised fertiliser faced challenges that required a rethink of the ongoing fertiliser subsidy programme by the government.
“Because there is a correlation between modern seeds and fertiliser use, if you use modern seed hybrids, it will often require that you put in some fertiliser.
So if you think of the fact that many farmers are using traditional seeds, then they are not using fertilisers for reasons of poverty or high cost of the fertilisers,” said Professor Yaro.
The study noted that although the objective of the fertiliser subsidy programme was laudable, it was reaching the targeted farmers.
“We found that the subsidised fertilisers actually are not being used by many farmers. They are mainly used by middle-level farmers who have the money to pay the GH¢85. Even though it is subsidised the GH¢85 is too much for very poor farmers. As a result, even subsidised fertilisers are not being very well patronised,” Professor Yaro explained.
Another key finding of the study that was supported by Alliance for Green Revolution Africa (AGRA) also pointed out to the non-involvement of local seed producers by policy makers in the process to expand access to certified seeds.
“Because improved seeds are produced by big companies [the poor farmers] are unable to purchase them,” said Professor Yaro.
He said although the Ministry of Food and Agriculture trains many local farmers to grow improved seeds, these improved seed growers are not the first point of call for farmers looking for seeds that would give them high yield.
“We are saying that the policies that are going to come out of Parliament now have to be couched in a way to take cognisance of the facts on the ground.
“Policy must look at staggering the fertiliser subsidy. The policy must look at expanding the seed system. ‘The private sector’ should include the farmer in the village who is producing the seed. It should not be only the big companies and what not. The periodic local market where farmers go in search for seeds is also the private sector, the market women selling are all private sector. So we need a more formalised private sector so that we have diversity,” he said.
Reacting to the findings, National Fertilizer Adjustment Officer at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Michael Owusu, said the ministry is open to the recommendations. “So we will use those that are workable,” he said.
Programmes Director at PFAG, Charles Nyaaba, said the recommendations by the researchers are in the right direction and urged the incoming Akufo-Addo-led administration to consider them in a bid to improve agricultural production in the country.
“One of the key promises in the NPP manifesto for which the PFAG is interested in is that they were going to ensure that fertiliser is available and cheaper. They said they were going to set up a fertiliser company in the Western Region. It is something that we think is laudable and we encourage them to do it,” he said.
He said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government must follow through its promise of taking a second look at the current Plant Breeders’ Bill. He urged the government to engage PFAG on the bill to ensure that it becomes more smallholder farmer friendly.