This year’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme is targeting 1.5 million farmers across 260 districts in all 16 regions, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has disclosed.
The figure is 300,000 extra when compared to the 1.2 million beneficiaries targeted for last year, according to Seth Osei-Akoto, the MoFA Director of Crops Services.
He made this known yesterday during a presentation on the 2021 PFJ campaign (fertilizer and seeds) implementation guidelines at a sensitisation workshop in Accra.
The workshop served as a platform for the Ministry and stakeholders including the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) and International Budget Partnership (IBP) to engage on the PFJ programme for the year.
Mr Osei-Akoto said the focus crops for this year included maize, rice, sorghum, soybeans, groundnut, cowpea, tomato, ion pepper, cabbage, lettuce, carrot, cucumber and cassava.
To curb the smuggling of subsidised fertilisers to neighbouring countries this year, he said, movement of the input had been restricted in 21 municipalities and districts in five regions where the practice was rampant.
The affected areas are six districts in the Upper East including Bawku Municipal, Garu and Pusiga; six in the Upper West, including Sisala East and West and Lawra; Saboba and Tatale in Northern; Chereponi and Bunkrugu-Nakpanduri in the North East, while Ketu North and South are part of the five affected areas in Volta.
“In Pusiga for instance, fertilisers are conveyed across the border using donkeys without riders. The issue of smuggling is worrying and we must all help to stop it,” he said.
In view of this, Mr Osei-Akoto said only 10 retailers would be allowed to distribute the fertilisers in those areas under strict compliance with new guidelines to ensure efficiency and value for money.
These guidelines, he said, included the bagging of all inputs in PFJ labelled bags and containers, endorsement of waybill copies on all consignments by regional ministers and supervision of distribution by Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo).
He said quality control, especially with the inspection of inputs and their storage would not be compromised, warning that distributors who failed to comply with the guidelines would be taken off the programme.
He commended all stakeholders for their contribution to the success of the PFJ, especially the increase in targeted beneficiaries last year and urged them to play their roles effectively to sustain the gains.
In a presentation on the 2020 PFJ monitoring, the Head of Programmes and Advocacy of PFAG, Dr Charles Nyaaba, said there were improvement in the fertiliser subsidy programme in terms of timely delivery and access.
However, he said, majority of the farmers perceived prices of the inputs to be high while challenges of smuggling, hoarding and diversion persisted and urged the government to step up efforts to resolve them.
Senior Programme Officer of IBP, Patrick Stephenson, made a case for the government to increase investment to the agricultural sector because it was critical to the socio-economic growth of the country.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR AND ZIPPORAH ODONKOR