Government urged to probe subsidised fertiliser programme

BY: Kester Aburam Korankye
Dr Afriyie Akoto  — Agric Minister
Dr Afriyie Akoto — Agric Minister

In a bid to clamp down on the surge in subsidised fertiliser smuggling into neighbouring countries for sale, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Community Development Alliance (CDA-Ghana), has urged the government to conduct a thorough audit into the programme which commenced in 2017.

The demand for the audit, barely a year into the programme has become necessary due to bottlenecks affecting its smooth implementation. widespread irregularities and corruption.

In August last year, the Graphic Business uncovered a syndicate of smugglers who carted government’s subsidised fertiliser through unapproved routes in some border towns in the Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Western regions into neighbouring countries for sale.

The paper observed that virtually on a daily basis, truck-loads of the subsidised fertiliser were carted through border towns such as Kulungugu, Badoo, Pusiga, Sankaase and other villages along the country’s northern border to Burkina Faso and Togo by a group of individuals and institutions that have gained notoriety in the illicit trade.

Some of them earned their living carting the smuggled bags of fertiliser from trucks in smaller bits onto tricycles, which they transported into the neighbouring countries through unapproved routes.

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However, the Executive Director of CDA-Ghana, Mr Salifu Issifu Kanton, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on August 27, that the ilegal activity had gained momentum while the government had been adamant in clamping down on perpetrators.

He explained that the NGO had also uncovered mass fraud and smuggling of the fertiliser meant for local farmers after conducting a baseline study in Sissala West and Lambussie districts.

Initiative desired

He said although the programme was not new in the country, its implementation had not yielded the desired impact on productivity and income of smallholder farmers who were expected to benefit from the scheme.

“We are not seeing the impact of the current programme; We are not opposed to the policy, however we think we must encourage all to think through to see how to make it effective,” he said.

The subsidised fertiliser programme, he said, was a good initiative that had been saddled with challenges at the implementation stage and needed to be reviewed.

“It’s in the government’s own interest that the policy is audited because there is no proper record keeping by input dealers,” he said.
Such audit, aside exposing corrupt officials, would also determine whether the programme had increased access and boosted production of food crops, particularly by smallholder farmers.
Evidence from the CDA-Ghana study however, showed that there had been an increase in the use of fertiliser following the introduction of the programme in 2017 and resulted in marginal rise in yields and incomes.

Widespread smuggling

According to CDA-Ghana, its researchers also established that reported stories of smuggling of subsidised fertiliser into neighbouring countries were true.

The study revealed that fertiliser smuggling into neighbouring Burkina Faso was “endemic” in the areas the study was undertaken.

“Smuggling of subsidised fertilizer is free for all in these districts. It looks like fertilizer has a diplomatic passport because we see it being smuggled out of the country and no one stops it”

It also established that there were inadequate storage facilities and centralisation of the subsidised fertilizers created avenue for irregularities, coupled with inadequate extension officers and public education in the 164 operational areas.

It was also revealed that there were delays in the supply, while recovery rate was low. Again many farmers were also engaged in double registration. — GB