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Farmers bemoan high fertiliser prices

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi

Some smallholder farmers, particularly women, have threatened to abandon the production of food crops and venture into what they described as alternative enterprises if the government fails to reverse the subsidies on fertilisers from the current 15 per cent to 36 per cent.

The government reduced the subsidies to 15 per cent at the beginning of the year citing cost and a deliberate attempt to gradually remove the gesture after exposing the farmers to the impact fertilisers could have on their crop yields and profitability.

But justifying their intended action, the farmers complained that they spent a minimum of GH¢1000 per acre only on fertiliser, a situation which was a drain on their ‘meagre’ incomes from farming.

Subsequently, they described the reduction in fertiliser subsidy as unacceptable and reiterated their call for its restoration.

“The price of a bag of fertiliser is more than GH¢300 now and usually it is recommended that we use two bags of NPK and a bag of Urea on an acre. This amounts to around GH¢1,200. So, for us to spend that amount on an acre we would rather prefer to look at alternative enterprises,” the spokesperson for farmer associations, Dr Charles Nyaaba, said in an interview on March 11, 2022.

Dr Nyaaba, who is also the Head of Programmes and Advocacy of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), said the farmers threatened to quit farming to also engage in buying and selling to make ends meet, while the younger ones were considering moving to Accra and other regional capitals in search of other livelihoods to make ends meet.

Others, he said, were contemplating a scale down on their production or reduce the use of fertiliser, a move which could have significant impact on food security.

“So, we are planning to meet the Minister of Finance to see what can be done because we think that the justification for the reduction is unacceptable,” he said.

He said failure by the government to heed to their plea would affect everyone.

 

Withdrawal of subsidy

On efforts by the government to completely remove the subsidies on fertilisers, Dr Nyaaba said a total withdrawal was not an option unless the government was going to put the money in alternative projects that the farmers would be able to access to reduce their cost of production.

He said the farmers would continue to engage the government while hoping that some alternative measures would be instituted.

 

Reduction in subsidy

At the end of January this year, the government announced its decision to reduce the subsidy component on fertilisers for its flagship programme, the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), from 36 per cent in 2021 to 15 per cent for this year.

Per a notification of offer being circulated on the various agriculture social media platforms, government’s approved cost of 50 kg NPK fertiliser is now GH¢320, up from GH¢108 last year.

This indicates a 200 per cent increase, a development farmer associations in the country describe as unacceptable and kicked against it.

The groups, including the PFAG, Ghana Rice Millers Association (GRMA) and the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), said there was the need for effective consultations to allow for informed decisions on such matters of policy to improve the delivery of subsidies.

Stakeholders have argued that even at the 36 per cent subsidised rate, last year farmers could not get some to buy because of high prices and unavailability.