Some local seed producers in the Central Region have appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to strengthen and sustain the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme (PFJ).
According to them, the programme is vital for revival of the agricultural sector since it will not only ensure a regular and sustainable supply of food, but also promote local agribusiness.
Speaking to the media during a visit to Central Region by the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto the local seed producers noted that introduction of the PFJ programme has helped boost their businesses in terms of yields and demand.
According to them, with the supply of subsidised fertilisers and extension support, their yields for the 2017 crop season increased by more than 50 percent.
Mr. Jeremy Bart Addison, who is one of the farmers producing foundation seeds for supply to beneficiaries of the PFJ programme, said he is currently doing 25 acres of maize at his farm, located at Mprepremu, for supply to the programme.
He said he was able to afford fertilisers for his farm because of the huge subsidy, adding that it is a significant improvement from previous years.
Mr. Bart Addison, therefore, appealed for government to increase investment in seed production, adding that the local seed industry can survive if government implements deliberate policies and programmes targetted at increasing their capacities.
He said although the PFJ initiative has injected fresh impetus into their business in terms of increase in demand, there are still many challenges which ought to be addressed in the course of implementation.
He mentioned, for example, a lack of storage and processing facilities to guarantee the quality of seeds produced, as well as prolonging their lifespan.
Currently, government imports a chunk of improved seeds supplied to farmers under the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme from abroad, due to lack of capacity.
However, the Minister of Food and Agriculture noted that government is determined to reverse this trend by supporting local seed producers to increase their capacity.
He said the ministry has reached agreements with local institutions such as the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as well as the six public universities in the country to produce seeds locally in support of the PFJ programme.
“We have challenged these institutions to provide us with the seeds needed to supply our farmers, because we cannot continue to import seeds from abroad. We want to increase the capacity of our local seed producers and also ensure that all these huge dollars we are using to import raw materials remain in the country to boost our economy.”
In order to address the delay in supply of quality seeds, the minister hinted that the ministry intends awarding contracts to suppliers by latest December 31, 2018. This, according to him, will offer the suppliers enough time to produce and supply to the ministry for the programme.
Meanwhile, the minister earlier toured the Grains and Legumes Development facility at Winneba to inspect facilities meant for producing and processing foundation seeds for farmers.
The facility, which was established several years ago, is currently operating below capacity despite its huge potential in research and production of quality seeds for farmers in the country.
While some of the machines and equipment have become rusty due to lack of use and regular maintenance, others have been totally abandoned.
Even for the few equipment in use, managers of the facility complained about huge electricity and operation costs – which they said forces them to occasionally shut the machines down.
Dr. Afriyie Akoto pledged that immediate steps will be taken to bring the facility back to life, since it is vital to implementing the PFJ programme.
He said funds will be made available to settle the huge electricity bills, so that the cold-rooms in particular can become functional for the storage of foundation seeds meant for supply to beneficiaries of the PFJ programme.
The minister and his entourage will be in the Western Region on Monday and Tuesday for the last leg of the regional field visits, which will take him to Shama Ahanta, Aboadi, and Badukrom.