The average Ghanaian farmer would have to fully embrace alternatives to make a living and sustain their families as inorganic fertiliser prices keep soaring. The unfortunate situation cropping up is a worry to many farmers as some are likely to fold up and others have resorted to reducing their farm sizes as the cost of production is overwhelming.
Global supply chains were badly disrupted at the height of the corona virus pandemic causing fertilizer prices to skyrocket especially from 2021. The situation has been worsened by the war raging between Russia and Ukraine, further escalating matters and threatening the livelihoods of farmers and food security.
As of July this year, a 50kg bag of subsidised fertiliser, was selling at GH¢320; a peasant farmer will require not less than GH¢1,000 for an acre of production, with at least 5-acre of cultivation requiring fertilisers worth GH¢5,000.
The open market price of a 50kg bag was GH¢400 and GH¢480 in some locations across the country. The above expenditure excludes the cost of agrochemicals and tractor services, as well as other production factors.
This ordeal is a blow to the agriculture sector which is one key driver of the country’s economic growth in recent years and remains the primary way many Ghanaians earn their living.
Confirming the impact, secretary of the Ashaiman irrigation farmers Association at GIDA (a group of 107 farmers), Joseph Quarshie said the situation coupled with shortages has affected yields and truncated gains of farmers.
“The prices have tripled. Last year, the price for one bag was around GH¢100 to GH¢120 whereas, at the moment, one bag varies between GH¢350 and GH¢450. But the bad side of the issue is that if you get the money at hand, you might not get it at the shops to buy because of the shortages, and this delay affects us,” he said.
The chemical fertiliser industry, one of the biggest gas-consuming industries worldwide, is under pressure due to price increases in oil and gas, and the growing scarcity of key ingredients and nutrients such as Ammonia (for nitrogen), Phosphoric acid (for phosphorus) and Potash (for potassium).
For instance, in Ghana, the rise in prices of fertilisers can be blamed primarily on the reduction of subsidy from 50 percent to 15 percent by the government aside the global events like the Russian-Ukraine war as both countries export 28 percent of fertilizers made from nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as potassium.
It is on this background that the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Owusu Afriyie Akoto, urged farmers to use organic fertiliser which is equally good for crop production, “to mitigate the impact on crop production and farmers, increase yield and prevent a possible shortage in the country.”
To lessen the impact of the situation and salvage any further shortfall that will affect food security as a result of lower yields and the increased price of agricultural products, a local producer, Safisana based in Ashaiman in the Greater Accra Region has recently doubled production of its Asase Gyefo Premium Organic Fertiliser to meet the demands of the local market need.
Senior Manager of Safisana Ghana, Kofi Boateng stated that the move is crucial as they believe the “local food production chains need to be supported to secure food availability”.
As a recycling company, Safisana “collects waste from the local food markets and local industries and uses it as a resource for the production of organic fertilizer. Key ingredients and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are recovered and reused from the waste through a process of composting. The result is a highly nutritive premium organic fertilizer which is good for the soil quality, the plants, and the planet.”
A study, conducted by the Department of Crop Science, University of Ghana, by Dr. Naalamle Amissah’s research group concluded that the use of Asase Gyefo Premium Organic Fertilizer can lead up to a 20 percent increase in yields, citing that “it is due to the fact that instead of exhausting the soil, as chemical fertilizers do, the organic fertilizer feeds the soil in such way that there is no time needed in between harvest for the land to rest or replenish”.
“Also, due to its high nutrient value, containing double amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorus and Potassium, our organic fertilizer just makes fruits and vegetables grow faster. We should change towards circular food production models in order to prevent the planet from exhaustion,” the Senior Manager of Safisana added.
Farmers including Kelly Ampofo (28) in charge of greenhouse crop production at Unique Vegetable Farms Limited, tried the Asase Gyefo and noted that the results are very impressive.
Mr. Joseph Quarshie of the Ashaiman Irrigation Farmers Association added that the group had not regretted switching to inorganic fertiliser because they had observed its positive effects on production. “The benefit of the organic fertiliser is first that it is cheaper for the farmer and when you apply, it stays in the soil for a longer period. Comparing yields, you get more with organic to Inorganic fertiliser,” he said, urging other farmers to switch to organic fertiliser.
Safisana is currently starting up a second compost production facility in Kumasi to meet the local market needs.