The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) has appealed to the Government to maintain subsidies on essential farm inputs, including fertiliser, to cushion smallholder farmers against high cost of production.
The Union said it had noted with concern the Government’s decision to remove subsidies on fertilisers as part of the operational model for the second phase of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) Programme.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Mr Edward Kareweh, General Secretary, GAWU, said the success of the 2024 planting season would be largely hinged on the cost of farm inputs and cautioned that the sector would record drop in growth if farmers could not afford essential inputs.
He said although GAWU was not against the involvement of the private sector in the implementation of the PFJ Phase II, the Government should not shirk its responsibility in leading policies that would guarantee food security.
“The arrangements under phase two of the PFJ should end up delivering inputs to farmers at a price or cost lower than the market price to enable the farmers to buy more of the inputs to aid production.”
“If that is not done, we will end up with a system whereby farmers cannot point to any benefit,” he said.
The second phase of the PFJ programme, which was launched in August 2023, is underpinned by the Input Credit System, that seeks to solve key challenges in the sector, including access to credit; quality of agro inputs; unstructured markets of agricultural produce, and low mechanisation.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has explained that under the new model, farmers do not need to raise money upfront to cultivate their farms, as that would be facilitated under the programme through the inputs credit arrangement.
Mr Kareweh said any arrangement that would not make farm inputs affordable to farmers would be problematic for the sector.
He said the Government might also fail to achieve the targeted jobs for the programme if farmers were not able to expand their production due to high cost of farm inputs.
Mr Kareweh said under the second phase of the PFJ, the Ministry should clearly indicate the measures it would take to address post-harvest losses, access to markets, and the construction of appropriate storage facilities.
“This economy is so much anchored on agriculture such that any policy that treats it otherwise creates a problem. It provides the basis upon which poverty can be reduced or increased,” he said.
Mr Kareweh said the agriculture sector performed better than expected in 2023 and attributed the situation to favourable weather conditions.
“Output did not go down because of the charitable nature of the weather. The rains came in proportionate margins,” he added.
The average share of the agriculture sector to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 19.1 per cent in the first half of 2020 to 21.3 per cent for the same period in 2021.
In the first half of 2023, the sector contributed to 6.3 per cent of Ghana’s GDP.
The sector employs about 60 per cent of the population and accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s land area.