Farmers in some parts of the country are lamenting over their inability to get the needed fertilizers for their farms, raising fears of an imminent low production this year. The shortage of fertilizer in the Northern part of the country is adversely affecting maize farmers as the situation has forced some farmers in the Sissala Municipalities to reduce their farm sizes.
“I only applied fertilizer on seven acres with the rest changing colour whilst others are dying off, I have to stay in a queue for several hours just to only get small quantity”, Madam Damata, a maize farmer at Tumu said.
As a result, Damata urged the government to urgently intervene to save the situation as the money already spent on the seeds, ploughing and sowing cannot be recovered.
Need for urgent action
Also, Mr Yussif Osman, a member of the Sissala West District Assembly, appealed to government to take steps to bring fertilizer to the area immediately. According to him, the government should also introduce the warehousing system in the distribution of fertilizer under the Planting for food and Jobs (PFJ) programme as the current system promoted diversion of fertilizer.
“It is difficult in getting the commodity to have resorted to getting some from the open market, which we don’t even get, you have to pay for your order through a middleman which also gets locked up sometimes, it’s really disturbing”, said Issifu Sule of Season Plus.
Meanwhile, sources revealed that the situation is forcing farmers to queue in the sun to buy the little fertilizer that is available, beyond the subsidized price of GH¢96.00. According to the farmers, they currently buy fertilizers at GH¢135.00 or more.
On their parts, fertilizer dealers in the Sissala West District explained that government’s subsidized fertilizer was difficult to get from their parent suppliers in Accra. The agents also alleged the possibility of the commodity being smuggled to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso.
Call to reform the Fertilizer Subsidy Scheme
It can be recalled that on June 15, 2021, the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) petitioned the Minister for Agriculture to reform the Fertilizer Subsidy Scheme to avert an imminent collapse of the scheme and to ensure efficiency and transparency in the program. GARDJA indicated that it has spent the latter part of 2020 and early part of 2021, gathering perspectives from farmers across the country on what their major challenges were and the issue of fertilizer subsidy emerged as the topmost priority of the farmers.
“We gather that annually, government allocates about 207 million Ghana Cedis for the scheme to import fertilizers, which are subsequently supposed to be sold to farmers at 50% of the original market price. But the farmers say they are not benefitting, raising questions about where exactly the subsidized fertilizers go. An average of three out of every four farmers across the country we have engaged is not benefitting from the subsidy scheme”.
Major challenges to the scheme
Meanwhile,GARDJA indicated that the farmers have cited alleged corruption, poor management, outright stealing and smuggling as some of the reasons why they are not benefitting from the scheme. The Association further indicated that some farmers are allowed to purchase more than the 15 bags per farmer under the scheme. It also noted that some farmers said they were being given only about 30% of the standard market price instead of the 50% subsidy announced by the government.
“We were shocked at recent disclosures by the Planting for Food and Jobs Secretariat that Ghana lost a whopping 120 million Ghana Cedis from unaccounted for subsidized fertilizers, diversion of coupons and smuggling in the 2017 and 2018 planting seasons alone. This is obviously a threat to the sustainability of the fertilizer subsidy scheme and a threat to the nation’s food security as a whole. Productivity on a lot of our farms remain low and that is obviously a source of worry. Increased application of fertilizers remains key if we will see better productivity on our farm fields”.