The Peasant farmers’ in Ghana have threatened to stop grain and cereal production if the government proceeds with the 15 percent slash on fertilizer subsidy.
Dr. Nyaaba, President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, disclosed in an interview that peasant farmers all over the country are complaining that the price of seeds, cost of land clearing, and fertilizer prices have increased tremendously, making it difficult for them to afford. If they ever needed fertilizer to boost their yield, the farmers said this was the time, he noted.
The government has announced its intention to cut down on fertilizer subsidy by 15 percent due to the effect of the current global crisis on the Ghanaian economy. The peasant farmers in Ghana have shown a dislike for the government’s initiative.
“Over the years, the government subsidy on fertilizer was 50 percent, and even with that, most peasant farmers couldn’t afford it. Most peasant farmers do subsistence farming and do not generate enough revenue from the sales of their produce. Farmers needed 1,700ghs in 2021 and 1200ghs in 2020 to farm on an acre of land, but with those years, income levels of farmers were lagging behind the cost of production because of climate-related issues in some parts of the country. The cropping budget for an acre in 2022 has increased to 3300ghs. We used to buy a 25kg NPK fertilizer bag at 50ghs, but it is now sold at 160ghs per the new price list from the Ministry of Agriculture. Soils in the savannah belt are poor, so a lot of fertilizer is needed for the farmer to achieve the required yield.
“The double cost of production will affect the availability of food in 2023 as a nation. Several out-growers, nucleus farmers, and smallholder farmers have disclosed that they would have to reduce their land sizes because maize and rice are high consumers of fertilizers. Farmers around the transitional belt like Wenchi have also revealed that they would instead cultivate maize, yam, and other tuber-related crops since they consume less fertilizer. Farmers in the Northern part of Ghana have also disclosed they will grow sorghum-related crops like beans which are all low consumers of fertilizers.”Dr. Nyaaba
Peasant farmers constitute about 70 percent of the agriculture workforce. So their refusal to desist from cultivating grains and cereals will reduce food production and affect the food security status of Ghana in 2023.
Dr. Nyaaba revealed in an interview that farmers’ production isn’t limited only to fertilizer availability, but the other factors of production should be considered holistically. He said that farmers in Wenchi have not started crop planting because of the late rains.
“The government’s decision to cut down on fertilizer subsidy to 15 percent would impact maize and rice more because these crops consume a lot of fertilizer. Thus, farmers are shifting from the cultivation of cereals and grains to producing other crops. This would mean a shortage of these commodities. These staple foods are consumed in every Ghanaian household. Ghana currently produces 35 percent of locally produced rice. Still, the Ministry made projections of producing 60 percent of rice this year, but that is likely not to happen. The cut down in grains and cereals production is likely to significantly impact other sectors like the poultry and livestock industry”.Dr. Nyaaba
Dr. Nyaaba suggested that the government consider the leakages associated with the fertilizer supply under the Planting for Food And Jobs (PFJ).
“Burkina Faso, for instance, does not have any fertilizer subsidy, but the government gives a guarantee to farmers to apply for loans from the government at a 2 percent interest rate. The government should instead provide the fertilizer subsidy to the peasant farmers. In contrast, for those operating on a large scale, the commercial farmers and aggregators, the government should give them guaranteed loans. The government should also try to ensure that the 1District 1Dam project is functioning so that there will be enough water for farmers if the rains fail farmers this year. Similarly, the government should encourage compost making and target domestic fertilizer organizations and give them tax subsidies to produce fertilizer for farmers. This will reduce the cost of importation”.Dr. Nyaaba
Mr. Edward Kareweh, the Secretary of General Agriculture Workers Union, has also advised that the government should instead set policies that will not cut production regardless of what it’s facing. He further suggested that the government consider building domestic fertilizer plants before the fertilizer crisis gets out of hand.
It is simple economics. It is about choices. Agriculture determines the state of health of the people to some considerable extent. It will be suitable for the government to focus on agriculture in these challenging times, says Dr. Edward Kareweh, the Secretary of General Agriculture Workers Union of Ghana.
In contributing to the discussion, Dr. Patrick Asuming, a Development Expert, advised the government not to turn Ghana’s economic crisis into a food crisis because that will be a big blow. He said that the irregularities around the supply process of fertilizer should be looked at rather than the government cutting down on fertilizer subsidy.