The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) is asking government to increase the percentage of subsidy on fertilizer and other farm inputs from the existing 50 percent to 75 percent to assist farmers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The association said the request has become necessary as the COVID-19 menace has negatively impacted the finances of the farmers, curtailing their capacity to purchase fertilizer and other inputs for their farms.
Under the current ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ initiative, government subsidizes the cost of fertilizer by up to 50 percent with the rest of the cost being borne by farmers. But the PFAG says its members can only afford 25 percent of the cost of input under the current circumstances created by COVID 19.
With the current level of subsidy, a farmer, pays about GHc42 for a 25kg bag of fertilizer on the market.
But the PFA has said buying this input at even the effective half price during this COVID-19 era has become a difficult thing as members of the association have insufficient money to purchase the quantity of input they require.
“Due to COVID-19, a lot of food crops have been left unsold. The patronage of hotels, restaurants and schools and activities such as funerals have been halted and this has affected the sales of foodstuff by our farmers as demand is no longer strong since March this year. That, has affected our finances,” Bismark Owusu Nortey, Programmes Officer of the PFAG told the Goldstreet Business.
The situation, he explained, could adversely affect the yield of farmers in few months’ time as this year’s harvest falls due, which in turn could increase the price of food stuff significantly on the market should farmers continue to have challenges with money to purchase crucial inputs during this period. According to PFAG, the situation is worsened by the fact that many the farmers are staying at home for fear of being exposed to the virus.
The association has also appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to make personal protective equipment and fumigation kits available to the over 7000 agriculture extension officers across the country, to enable them to effectively fight fall army worms on farms.
“Our members have complained to us about the inability of extension officers to render spraying services because of the lack of fumigation kits. They simply don’t have the PPE to do that. MoFA only provides chemicals for the officers and that, poses a great danger to our members who are not getting spraying services,” Mr Owusu Nortey disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Director in charge of Protecting Plants at MoFA, Dr. Felicia Ansah-Amprofi has however clarified that it is not the duty of Extension Officers to spray farms but rather, they are supposed to provide training and capacity building for each farmer in all districts to enable them to spray their own farms. Government only provides the chemicals” she said.
“Since 2018, Extension Officers have been providing training to smallholder farmers on how they can spray their own farms. It is also the responsibility of every farmer to own a spraying or fumigation kit. However, government has recently provided some districts with PPEs to support farmers in this COVID-19 era.
The PFAG is the apex farmer-based non-governmental organization in Ghana with the mandate to advocate pro poor agriculture and trade policies for smallholder farmers. It has about 40,000 registered members.