Subsidized fertilizer for farmers under PFJs 50,000 bags smuggled out … last year to neighbouring countries
About 50,000 bags of fertiliser meant for farmers under the Planting For Food and Jobs(PFJs) were last year smuggled across neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Togo , Niger and Mali, the Director of Crop Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) , Mr Seth Osei-Akoto, has disclosed.
The Director who made the disclosure to stakeholders at an Input Dealers Conference organised at Zuarungu in the Upper East Region, on Friday, stated that the government cannot continue to spend such hard currencies on farm inputs meant for the Ghanaian smallholder farmers, only to be smuggled across to neighbouring countries by some unscrupulous persons for their selfish gains.
The forum, organised by the “Petasgo Enterprise,” the main distributor of Agriculture inputs in the region, brought together input dealers, Municipal and District MOFA Directors and farmers, among others from all the 15 Municipal and District Assemblies(MDAs) across the region.
The Director cited some instances in Pusiga of the Bawku Municipal closer to the border with Burkina Faso, where some of the unscrupulous persons often use donkey carts to smuggle the products across to neighbouring countries unaccompanied and later on meet the donkeys after they had crossed the border towns to offload the products for sale in the neighbouring countries.
He stated that currently the Ministry together with the security agencies were processing some people for court, including government officials who had been entrusted with the responsibilities to ensure that the farm inputs get to the right persons but found engaged in the smuggling of the products.
He warned those who had the intention of engaging in such negative activity in this farming season to desist from the act or risk prosecution.
“Let us all stop engineering the smuggling of the item by being vigilant and police men and women. The fertilizer subsidy is meant for farmers in Ghana and not those outside,” the Director of Crop Services stressed.
Mr Osei-Akoto explained that to stop the smuggling of fertiliser to neighbouring countries, the government had rolled out a number of measures.
He indicated that the coupon system had been abolished paving the way for staff of the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO), to support retailers to use Information Communication Technology (ICT ), to ensure that the farm inputs get to the right farmers at the right time.
The Director who added that all the subsidised fertilisers would now have inscriptions and logo on them as a way of ensuring effective monitoring and supervision, stated that the government through MOFA had also tasked all the Regional Ministers and the District Chief Executives in the country to take active part in the monitoring process of the farm inputs to ensure value for money.
The Upper East Regional Minister, Ms Paulina Patience Abayage, also stated that some of the culprits including government officials who were asked to police the farm inputs during last year farming season had been cited for causing financial loss to the state.
She said apart from such offenders being made to face the law, they would be made to pay back the money to government chest.
She further stated that already some of the fertilizers meant for farmers in the southern sector for this crop season had found their way to the border towns of the Upper East Region and expressed shock that some of the culprits were officials who were put in charge of the job of ensuring that the subsidy got to the right farmers.
“Let me sound a strong warning that if you are caught and brought before me as the regional minister and head of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC), I will ensure that you are prosecuted,” the Regional Minister stressed.
The Chief Executive Officer of PETASGO ENTERPRISE, Peter Adongo, lauded the ministry on the distribution modalities, adding that, it would not only eliminate smuggling but ensure timely delivery of the inputs to farmers.
Mr Adongo who bemoaned how he lost more than GH¢600,000 to fake coupons used by some unscrupulous farmers in the region during last year crop season to access government subsidised fertilizers said, the new modalities introduced by MOFA would help address challenges.
He reiterated his outfit and the retailer’s commitment to ensure the availability and timely supply of the subsidised seeds and fertilizers to beneficiary farmers under the PFJs programme.
Some input dealers who spoke to the Ghanaian Times commended government for the timely intervention of addressing fertilizer smuggling and appealed to the Municipal and District Chief Executives(MDCEs) to avail themselves or delegate committed persons to verify and sign their claims for payments.
FROM SAMUEL AKAPULE, ZAURUNGU