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November 16, 2011

Ghanaian farmers ask for fertilizer subsidy to be extended

by Laud Nartey

Farmers in Ghana have called for an extension of subsidy on fertilizer by government beyond the 2015 deadline.

In May 2007, government announced the introduction of the subsidy on fertilizer to mitigate the effects of food crisis. It was also a rapid intervention to help increase food production during the peak of the then global crisis that was adversely affecting poor countries.

The Programmes Coordinator of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Victoria Adongo, explained at a stakeholder roundtable discussion with importers and distributors of fertilizer in Accra last week that there was uncertainty surrounding the life span of the program as sustained funding had become a problem.

"The small scale farmers are demanding that the fertilizer subsidy programme be made comprehensive to include funding, sustainability and as 2015 approaches, small scale farmers are jittery," she stated.

She further explained that in 2009, the PFAG did an impact assessment of the coupon or voucher system of the subsidized fertilizer distribution with the objective of assessing small scale farmers' access to the product.

A number of problems that made the access to fertilizer difficult for rural scale farmers especially women were identified.

On his part, the Director of Agric Extension Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Justice Amoah, stated that fertilizer application rate in Ghana was one of the lowest in the world. He attributed this to the high cost of fertilizers.

"A bag of 50kg NPK sells at 40 US Dollars," he said. He recalled that in 2008, government subsidized 43,176 metric tons of fertilizer to the tune of GHc 20.654 million, in 2009, a quantity of 72,795 metric tons were subsidized, amounting to GHc 34.4 million and in 2010, a quantity of 91,244 metric tons were subsidized and that also amounted to GHc 30.002 million . Thus a total amount of GHc 85,056million was spent on fertilizer over the three year period.

He disclosed that for the 2011 all categories of crop farmers whether Small, Medium or Large scale farmers have been targeted.

Justice Amoah mentioned cost of subsidy to government, sustainability of the programme with increased demand for more subsidized fertilizers, smuggling of fertilizers to neighboring countries and delays in processing payments as some of the challenges facing the programme.

He advised that government should encourage banks to provide guarantees, and set up more distribution channels in remote areas to increase farmers' access. He also called on government to endeavor to establish a fertilizer production plant in the country to take advantage of the by-product from Ghana's crude oil production.

An importer from Ghana-Agre Input Dealers Association (GAIDA), Afia Owusu Nyantekyi, appealed that publicity on subsidy has to be intensified so that the message could get to all farmers across the country.

"Low publicity is a mojor problem facing the farmers and some importers. Some don't hear the announcement and this is a major challenge," she explained.

allafrica.com

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