PFAG calls for increased investment in seed production

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Victoria Adongo
Victoria Adongo

The Peasant Farmers Association Ghana (PFAG) is calling for increased public investment in the seed sector for Ghanaian seed growers to increase their seed production.

The association is strongly of the view that, this will create more jobs, increase crop productivity and contribute to achieving the vision of “Ghana Beyond Aid”.
 
This formed part of its input into the 2019 budget which will be presented to Parliament in a few days.

The Executive Director of PFAG, Ms Victoria Adongo, said the focus for now should be on increasing support for the development of foundation seeds and certified seeds for the open pollinated seeds and hybrid seeds.

“We propose that in budgeting for the Planting for Food and Jobs programme next year, substantial allocation should be reserved for the support and promotion of the local seed industry,” she stated.

She said available information indicated that over 80 per cent of the seeds used for the Planting for Food and Jobs programme were imported due to the inability of local seed producers to meet demand.
 
Apart from the incompatibility of foreign seeds to the local environment, she said the reliance on imports created jobs for foreigners and killed the performance of the country’s seed industry.

She said the 2019 budget should, therefore, provide adequate funding for the seed industry.

Access to appropriate farm machinery

The Executive Director also pointed out that another major challenge that farmers faced was the unavailability of appropriate mechanisation that addressed the needs of smallholder farmers such as small harvesters, planters, power tillers and “motor kings” among others.

“Since 2007, the government has been providing subsidised agricultural machines for individual farmers and private enterprises known as Agricultural Mechanisation Services Centres (AMSECs) to offer tractor-hire services to small-scale farmers.

The focus has been on tractors.

However, this model rather benefitted few business men and large scale farmers,” she disclosed.

“These individuals purchased the subsidised tractors and hire them at commercial rates to the smallholder farmers, thereby defeating the purpose of the subsidies,” she added.

To help increase access to mechanisation services, she said PFAG was recommending that the country should facilitate the manufacturing or importation of appropriate mechanisation such as power tillers, small planters and harvesters, corn shellers, shea pickers and steamers, hand weeders, cassava harvesters which addresses specific needs.
 
“This is currently being practiced in India, China and many countries in Europe.

This is possible by providing financial guarantees or tax incentives for manufacturers and importers.

Farmers and farmer groups with credibility should be identified and supported to purchase these machines at affordable prices,” she said.

She also recommended that local fabricators such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), GRATIS and Kumasi Magazine be supported financially and youth trained on appropriate and better designs to manufacture specific machines and their spare parts of local relevance in Ghana.

Post-harvest management

The association also pointed out that the government over the years was focused on investment in food production, with little investment to reduce post-harvest losses.

While investing in fertiliser and seeds is not entirely bad, Ms Adongo said post-harvest losses posed more threat to food security campaign than low production.
 
Available statistics indicate that as much as 60 per cent of yam produced in Ghana is lost through post-harvest losses.
 
According to Africa post-harvest loss information system, losses in maize, rice and sorghum is pegged at 5-70 per cent, 11-27 per cent and 5-15 per cent, respectively.

That of perishable foods such as tomato, watermelon, cabbage, garden egg, etc. could be as high as 100 per cent in some occasions.

The Executive Director said the causes of Post-Harvest Loss (PHL) ranged from lack of appropriate harvesting equipment, lack of storage, lack of basic processing equipment and bad feeder roads among others.

To reverse this trend, she called on the government to subsidise appropriate postharvest management equipment such as small harvesters, processers, cold vans and appropriate storage and marketing facilities.

Agro processing

Ms Adongo also advised that the government’s One district, One factory policy on industrialisation should focus on agro-processing industries at different scales.

“The efforts should be in growing local industries and enforcing the use of local raw materials,” she said. — GB

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