The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), has recommended that fertiliser should be distributed to food crop farmers free of charge as it is being done for cocoa farmers.
The PFAG said even under the National Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP), prices of fertiliser was still high for the farmers to buy.
“If we actually want to help farmers and to improve the sub-sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), then we should do it as we do for the cocoa farmers. Although the programme was targetted at small holder farmers, the large scale farmers are getting more than the small scale farmers,” the Programme Officer of the PFAG, Mr Charles Nyaaba, said in an interview with the Graphic business, following the launch of the 2016 FSP by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).
During the launch, the Minister of MoFA, Alhaji Mohammed Muniru Limuna, said the government was subsidising fertilisers at an average of 26 per cent from 21 per cent in previous years.
This means a bag of compound fertiliser would now cost GH¢85 instead of GH¢89 cedis and Uria is GH¢80 cedis against GH¢85 in 2015.
The FSP was initiated in 2008 by government to help farmers increase the rate of fertiliser use and increase production. Farmers paid only half of the cost of the input, as the government absorbed 50 per cent of the cost.
The PFAG has meanwhile commended government for the timely launch of the FSP for this year.
Mr Nyaaba said because of issues such as climate change, most food crop areas start planning from April onwards so if the FSP is launched in March and by April fertilisers are available in the various districts then it would address delays.
“This and the adoption of the use of organic fertiliser were some of the recommendations we gave government so it is also commendable that the MoFA intends to include organic fertilisers to the package this year because of the numerous benefits it offers crops and soil,” he said.
According to him, applying organic fertiliser was economical and that PFAG was considering building the capacity of farmers to produce their own organic manure over time.
Mr Nyaaba said there should be direct strategies targeted at women farmers since it is often difficult for them to compete with the men.
“After all they are in the majority of the small holder farmers and they do more of food crops and they need it most. We can reach out to them by providing specific allocations of say 40 per cent to women,” he said.
He was concerned that recruitment of extension officers had been put on hold for some years now and must be looked at since it was having an impact on the application of fertilsier.
The PFAG has said fertiliser was a key determinant of high crop yields, for that reason, as part of efforts to ensure the country becomes food secure, we should be interested in access of fertiliser by farmers.
It had on several platforms called for certain taxes to be dedicated to improving agricultural productivity, particularly the FSP, as getting sources of funding had always been a challenge.
The association said the country should be thinking of at least one per cent of the Export Development Agriculture Investment Fund (EDAIF) and the Annual Budget Fund Allocation (ABFA) to support FSP.
The MoFA has said this years FSP will be implemented through an electronic platform.
Since the introduction of the programme, the average rate of fertiliser application increased from eight kilogrammes per hectare in 2008 to 12 kilogrammes per hectare in 2015. This year, the programme seeks to make 15 kilogrammes of fertiliser available each to farmer.
Also government, for the 2016 cropping season, has targeted to subsidise 180,000 granular fertilisers at a cost of GH¢120 million and GH¢18 for organic fertilisers respectively.