Fertiliser subsidy stopped… Gov’t owes companies GH¢64m

Fiifi Kwetey Minister of Agriculture (5)The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Franklin Fiavi Fifi Kwetey, told Parliament yesterday that the government could not roll out the National Fertiliser Subsidy Programme for the 2014 cropping season because it was indebted to fertiliser companies.

He said the government was unable to pay the fertiliser companies a total amount of GH¢64 million being subsidies on fertiliser distributed by the companies in 2013.

“The fertiliser companies have indicated that with that amount outstanding, they could not continue with the subsidy programme for the 2014 cropping season,” he told the House.

Mr. Kwetey, who was answering a question on when the distribution of subsidised fertiliser to farmers for the on-going cropping season commenced, said the government, last week, paid up GH¢46 million of the afore-mentioned outstanding amount.

Although the national fertiliser subsidy programme was not rolled out, he said there were targeted fertiliser subsidies for rice production in the 2014 season.

“Under the EDAIF sponsored rice project, a total of 49,953 bags of fertiliser have been given out to rice farmers in the Northern, Upper West, Upper East, and the Volta Regions. The objective is to increase rice production and to reduce imports into the country,” he said.

The agriculture minister said under the enhanced access to quality rice seed initiative being funded by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme, 6,000 bags of fertiliser had been distributed to 200 rice growers in Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, and Northern regions to boost rice production.

The cost of the two interventions, he said, was GH¢2.1 million.

Mr. Kwetey also answered questions on the measures the ministry was taking to reduce the rising cost of import of basic food items like rice, tomatoes, cooking oil, poultry, and meat, among others, and said that the ministry had embarked on a number of programmes to address the problem.

“In the short to medium term, the ministry is transforming selected MOFA Agriclutural Stations within the oil palm belt into oil palm technology transfer centres,” he said.

Mr. Kwetey also said that next year, the ministry would establish central nurseries to distribute 100,000 improved oil palm planting materials per year as a way of improving smallholders’ access to improved planting materials.

In addition, he said the ministry would provide technical training for farmers in good agronomic practices.

On tomato production, Mr. Kwetey said the ministry was in the process of introducing greenhouse technology for vegetable production.

“We have started a process of securing 100 green houses as a start. The green houses would enable farmers to increase yield and produce year round with reduced pest and disease incidence. The idea is that in the short to medium term, our local artisans may be trained to fabricate these green houses in the country,” he said.

Touching on rice production, Mr. Kwetey said the ministry in collaboration with EDAIF had started a project to stimulate growth in the rice industry and step up production.

This year, he said a total of 7000 hectares of rice fields have been cultivated with 14,000 farmers as beneficiaries, and added that the project has targeted 16,000 metric tons of milled rice.

By Yaw Kyei

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