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Business News of Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Source: graphic.com

Some agric programmes not funded

Government says it has spent GH¢118. 81 million on poverty-related agricultural programmes as at the end of September this year, however GRAPHIC BUSINESS checks show that not all the programmes have benefited.

For instance, the Fertiliser Subsidy Programme, (FSP), has not received any financial support from government since the year began.

As of half year 2014, there was no single fertiliser on the market, a situation stakeholders said was gravely affecting crop farmers, particularly, those in the Upper East and Upper West regions of the country.

The poverty-related programmes, which include Extension Services and the establishment of Agricultural Mechanisation Service Centres (AMSEC), among other things sought to boost agricultural production.

The 2015 budget statement released recently said the total planned budgeted amount for 2014 for the Agriculture Sector was GH¢226.0 million.

The Programmes Officer of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Mr Charles Nyaaba, in an interview corroborated that there was no subsidised fertiliser for 2014.

He said PFAG had predicted there was likely to be a reduction in food crops contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because of the failure of government to give subsidy for 2014 and the way other interventions in agriculture were handled, including Youth in Agriculture Programme and the AMSEC.

The 2015 budget statement presented recently stated that the agriculture sector continued to show signs of recovery, increasing consistently from 2.3 per cent in 2012 to 5.2 per cent in 2013 and 5.3 per cent in 2014.

The growth was on account of the forestry and logging subsector which rebounded from a decline of 0.04 per cent in 2013 to a growth of 16.5 per cent in 2014. The fishing sub-sector also maintained its recent positive growth path, growing by 7.1 per cent in 2014, up from 5.8 per cent in 2013.

However, the crops sub-sector experienced a declining growth, growing at 3.6 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in 2013.

Mr Nyaaba said it was unfortunate that agriculture growth for the crop sector had actually declined while the real sector that had grown in 2013 was forestry and logging and fishery sector.

“These are the sectors that we actually would have loved we continue to record negative growth because of climate change. So it means that we get more contribution for forestry with GDP trees being cut in 2014. If you look at all sub-sectors in agric, crop sub-sector is the largest and has most of Ghanaians depending in terms of employment, livelihood, etc. It is a sector that we depend on so much so if this sector is actually reducing then in terms of its contribution to GDP then it’s a source of worry,” he said.

He said the above had happened because what government put in the budget for 2014, it never fulfilled any of them.

“FSP never came, seed subsidy never came, Youth in Agric failed, National Buffer Stock in practice have never yielded anything,” he said.

He said the interventions stated in the 2015 budget were good if government would implement them.

A total of GH¢395.19 million has been allocated for the agriculture sector. About GH¢347.16 million of this allocation representing 87.9 per cent, is to be spent on fertiliser subsidy, agriculture mechanisation services and the Youth in Agriculture Block Farm Programme among others.

Specifically, in 2015, an amount of GH¢144.00 million has been set aside to fund poverty-related agricultural interventions such as fertiliser subsidy, the tsetsefly programme, seed subsidy, among others.

The FSP was initiated by the government in 2008 to help farmers increase fertiliser application to increase yield.

The budget statement for 2014 said a total of GH¢226 .3 million had been allocated for the sector. About GH¢214 .9 million of the all allocation repenting 94.5 per cent, was to be spent on poverty-focused agriculture.

However, the planting season is over in most of the areas where the fertilisers were badly needed, especially for maize and rice production.

In 2012, 300,000 farmers benefited from 170,000 tonnes of subsidised fertiliser and 2000 kk of improved seeds of maize, rice and soybean in the fertiliser and seed subsidy programme .

In July this year in an interview with this paper, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of crops, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, said the government could not cancel the FSP without consulting all other stakeholders before the programme begun.

He said there was no such policy to withdraw the programme.

Rather, he said, the challenge had to do with the fact that the programme was based on warehouse receipts financing system.

Warehouse receipts are issued as evidence that specified commodities of stated quantity and quality have been deposited at particular locations by named depositors.

He said, "since there were arrears to be cleared, it would be morally wrong to go to the same companies you owe to deliver, especially when these are not small sums."

The PFAG has often said that fertiliser was a key determinant of high crop yields. For that reason, as part of efforts to ensure the country becomes food secure, we should be interested in access of fertiliser by farmers.

It has on several platforms called for certain taxes to be dedicated to improved agricultural productivity, particularly the FSP.

Since 2009, PFAG has been advocating around fertiliser subsidy. It has also asked for strict enforcement of the law against smuggling and punishment of persons caught trying to smuggle fertiliser outside the country.