Tumu (U/W), July 11, GNA - Press Secretary to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Ridwan Issah Alhassan, has said fertilizers for Planting for Food and Jobs would be supplied to farmers in Sissala East and West.
He said this would be done though there is a temporal ban.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), this week, the announced suspension of subsidised fertilisers to the Sissala East Municipality and Sissala West District where smuggling had been reported to be widespread.
But the announcement has created “fear and panic” among local farmers who said the move has created artificial shortages and caused “illegal increases” in prices.
A visit by the Ghana News Agency to the local market on Wednesday revealed that a bag of subsidized fertilizers which prior to the suspension cost GHC 75.00 was being sold at GHC 80.00 at some distribution centres in Tumu.
The dealers blamed the price increase on the recent fertilizer retail, distribution and haulage stop-gap measure announced by MoFA.
But, speaking to the GNA in Tumu, Mr Alhassan justified the suspension saying it was carried out to protect the interest of ordinary farmers from being denied “what is due them”.
He said government has invested over $700 million into the Planting for Food and Jobs programme meant to alleviate poverty among farmers and would not allow such a huge investment to go waste.
“Sissala is the maize hub of the country and the move is a stop-gap measure and to think that government is spending close to $700 million dollars and is going to individuals’ pocket is worrying,” Mr Alhassan said.
He said the supply of subsidised fertiliser for the programme has not stopped but “it's the mode of distribution that has changed”.
He said reports of fertiliser smuggling prompted MoFA’s decision to place the temporarily ban.
Mr Alhassan could not, however, tell when the ban would be lifted, saying that would depend on how soon an understanding could be reached.
He pledged to take up reports of the sudden fertilizer price increase and its accompanied shortages to the sector minister and the director of crops for redress.
Dr Joshua Jebuntie Zaato, a governance expert, commenting on the ban, said fertilizer smuggling has been an old-age problem affecting farmers and suggested the use of the “coercive power of the state to track the saboteurs engaged in the act”.
He said chiefs and farmers as well as the police should collaborate with the authorities of Burkina Faso and other neighbouring countries to clamp down the underhand dealers.
Dr Zaato described the suspension as a “wrong decision, unfair and unsustainable saying smuggling equally happens in cocoa-growing areas but never had any such measure taken.
He said the Ministry should have thought of the volumes of maize produced in the area, adding that a bottom-up approach was required for the effective implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
“The Ministry should have sent a delegation down to the people for thorough assessment and engage with farmers and distributors to ascertain the reality on the ground,” he said.
“Government should recruit people including traditional leaders, assembly members, farmers and opinion leaders to be the eyes and ears on the ground,” Dr Zaato added.
He also called for engagement of political parties on the matter and suggested that leaders adopt a cross-border coordination approach with neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, a cross-section of farmers have expressed disappointment over the ban as it could badly affect production and undermine success of the programme.
Mr Danjumah Sumaila, a farmer, said the severity of the suspension and the possible consequences of the “smuggling tag” on their areas was worrying since it implied their areas were the only place the crime was being perpetuated.
He called for tight security to deal with the challenge.
But, another farmer and transporter Mr Razak Mahama said the Ministry was right in taking the action in view of the impunity some individuals dealt in what he described as an illicit business.
He urged the Ministry to take steps to ensure farmers got the subsidised fertilizer when they needed them for the crop planting season.
Mr Ridwan Abass Dauda, the Member of Parliament for Sissala East Constituency, who spoke with the GNA via telephone, said he was shocked to receive the news on the fertiliser suspension.
He said he would engage the Minister on the matter to find an alternative solution so that deserving farmers would not suffer and urged the public to support government and the security to deal with the smuggling situation.