Peasant Farmers calls for improvement in access to fertilisers
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) on Thursday appealed to government to improve the supply and access of small scale farmers to subsidised fertilizers to ensure food security.
Speaking at a policy dialogue forum with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture and Finance, Mr Mohammed Nashiru, National President of PFAG, said high fertilizer prices were discouraging many farmers, especially the small scale farmers from using the required quantity of fertilizers.
Currently fertilizer application in the country stands at 12 kilogrammes per hectare, far from the target of 50 kilogrammes per hectare.
Mr Nashiru said even with the current 50 per cent subsidy on fertilizers, small scale farmers were still unable to pay for them without loans and other support and warned that any plan of a reversal of the trend could threaten the gains made so far.
“The issue of sustainability lies largely and more importantly on funding that will allow for increase in volumes of all types of fertilizers and the commensurate increase in subsidisation that will enable farmers’ access and increase usage,” he said.
Mr Nashiru said it was important to collectively devise strategies on how government could fund the fertilizers subsidy programme without over dependence on external support.
In PFAG’s recommendations drawn from series of meetings with farmers, input importers and civil society groups presented by Ms Victoria Adongo, Programme Coordinator PFAG, there was a call to government not to see subsidy as frivolous expenditure but as an investment to enhance food production and improved livelihoods.
She said delay in the distribution of fertilizers, especially during the period it was needed was impacting negatively on the productivity of farmers and called for the decentralisation of distribution networks to cover largely farming and rural communities.
The recommendations called for the establishment of a fertilizer fund to support the fertilizer subsidy, through contributions from the Value Added Tax, Communications Tax and lottery revenues.
It advocated strict punishment by law for any person caught trying to smuggle fertilizer outside the country.
Representatives of the Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning and Food and Agriculture reiterated government’s commitment to meeting the fertilizer needs of the farmers and denied any knowledge of plans to discontinue the programme.
The Government in 2008 initiated the fertiliser subsidy programme to help farmers increase their rate of fertiliser use, thereby increasing productivity and production.
It was to ensure food security and poverty reduction among small scale holders and women.
Budgetary allocation to the subsidy programme has increased from GHC20.6 million in 2008 to GHC65 million in 2011.**