Benchmark value discounts: Govt’s delay causing uncertainties ahead of planting season – Smallholder farmers

Benchmark value discounts: uncertainties ahead of planting season

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has expressed disquiet at government’s delay in publicly rescinding the decision to suspend implementing a reversal of the benchmark value discounts policy.

The delay, according to the association, threatens the operations of over 200,000 smallholder farmers who are uncertain as they wait for the rainy season to start planting by end of first quarter of the year.

Already, the PFAG, General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and Rice Millers Association of Ghana (RMAG) have warned that an estimated 100,000 persons who are directly engaged in rice value chain activities stand a risk of losing their livelihoods if the benchmark discount policy reversal is not implemented as planned.

Narrating the uncertainties among smallholder farmers to the B&FT in an interview, the Head of Programmes and Advocacy at PFAG, Dr. Charles Nyaaba, lamented that, already, prices of agro inputs have gone up by as high as 200 percent – creating a sceptical atmosphere whether to go ahead in preparation for the new season or not.

He stated that rice farmers, for example, are worried and unable to plan for the future since they are scared of losing out to cheap imports.

“A lot of my colleague rice farmers are very worried and they don’t know what the future holds for them because of government’s inability to come out and publicly state its plans. As I speak to you a lot of the rice farmers are planning to reduce their farm size because there is no need to locally produce more rice for it to go waste due to cheap imports,” he said.

Dr. Nyaaba explained that farmers are very calculative in forecasting to avoid losses.

He pointed out that lack of clarity on government’s policy concerning the benchmark value only goes to reinforce the perception that government is not ready to protect local rice farmers from the influx of cheap, imported rice.

Citing the poultry industry as an example, Dr. Nyaaba said livestock farmers are counting their losses as the poultry industry goes down on its knees. “Look at the cost of poultry feed now. Our farmers are no longer growing the maize and the soya beans to prepare the feed because, at the end of the day, cheap frozen chicken will be imported into the country,” he said.

He cautioned that the country risks food shortages if measures are not put in place to clearly announce government’s decision through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture so as to reassure farmers.

Engaging Technical Team

Following a joint press statement from the PFAG, GAWU and the RMAG, Dr. Nyaaba said a government Technical Team was made to meet members of the associations. According to him, even though they had a fruitful discussion, there is still no public announcement on government’s decision on the policy to direct the discussion forward.

Such uncertainties, he said, create doubts among smallholder farmers and players in the rice value chain – leaving them questioning whether government is committed to protecting local rice producers and millers.

He stated that even though there are some rumours that duties on some items have been increased at the ports to protect local producers, members of the association are unaware of the specific items since there is no official communication from government.

He urged government to see the issues raised by players in the agricultural sector as an emergency to avoid food shortages.

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