The majority of fertiliser distributors – more than 60 percent of them – are yet to receive payment for inputs distributed in government’s flagship ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ) programme during the 2021 crop season, the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has disclosed.
In view of the trend, which is growing into a norm, the PFAG has expressed fear that the phenomenon of food shortages, as well as exorbitant pricing of foodstuff which plagued consumers across the country in 2021, could be repeated this year if farmers still have to struggle getting access to inputs in readiness for the planting season this year.
Last year, 2021, the bulk of fertiliser companies who were contracted to supply inputs for the PFJ were not paid – and those who were paid did not receive their monies on time.
Interestingly, government’s allocation to funding the PFJ has been increasing in the last few years.
This year, 2022, government is spending an amount of US$98million on the programme, an increase from the US$70million spent in the 2021 planting season. The total PFJ allocation this year constitutes about 59.5 percent of the Food and Agriculture Ministry’s total budget.
Despite the upsurge in allocation, data from the Food and Agriculture Ministry (MoFA) indicate that government owes fertiliser importers some US$149million since the beginning of 2020. Out of the amount, just about US$39.6million was paid as of July 2021.
“As we speak, most fertiliser companies – more than 60 percent – have still not received payment for the inputs that were delivered under the PFJ in 2021; not to mention the 2020 arrears,” Head of Advocacy and Programmes for PFAG, Dr. Charles Nyaaba, told the B&FT.
He explained that government needs to put in measures that ensure what happened in 2021 does not repeat this year, adding: “If government doesn’t pay quickly, input distributors might be reluctant to bring in what is required for farmers”.
The PFAG recommends government to quickly assist in payment of arrears to fertiliser importers and also increase subsidy allocations – which as of last year have declined to less than 30 percent.
Rising cost of open market fertiliser
As already projected by the PFAG regarding the anticipated rise in price of fertiliser on the open market in 2022, some rice farmers who spoke to the B&FT including Brazil Agro – producer of Champion Rice – have confirmed that the price of a 50kg bag of fertiliser on the open market has reached GH¢450 from GH¢340 last year – with prices in some locations still rising.
But Dr. Nyabaa argued that the current hike in price of inputs on the open market will greatly disadvantage smallholder farmers, who may not be able to purchase enough considering the cost.
“This is the reason why government must help by increasing subsidies and also make the inputs promptly available when the planting season starts, in order not to compromise the country’s food systems,” he said.
Dr. Nyaaba believes failure to introduce these interventions will only increase cost of production for farmers, which will result in low yields and food scarcity.