The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) on the occasion of the 35th Farmers’ Day Celebration wishes to once more commend the government of Ghana for setting aside a day to appreciate the contribution of farmers to the growth and development of the country.
As the nation celebrates its 35thedition of farmers day under the theme: “Enhancing Small Scale Agriculture towards Agribusiness Development”,PFAG congratulates all smallholder farmers especially those who will be awarded prices at the local level.
Unfortunately, however, critical issues on the eve of this celebration have taken the spirit off the year’s theme. Smallholder rice farmers who are keen in agribusiness are apprehensive and despondent as the rice they produced during the last crop season lies waste and possibly to the vagaries of harmattan bush fires. Farmers are confronted with lack of access to combine harvesters, lack of storage and exploitation by traders who have taken advantage of the desperate situation. The National Food Buffer Stock is on record in November 2019 to have publicly announced plans to mop up the surplus rice by providing minimum guarantee prices to farmers which never materialized leaving the rice farmers to their fate.
It is worrying and would be ridiculous to members of PFAG who represent majority of smallholder farmers in Ghana to observe the nations’ holidaying and rejoicing in celebrating of farmers when most of PFAG members are suffering with postharvest losses and lack of market. For PFAG, “there is nothing to celebrate when some members are still counting on their losses”
Ghanaian farmers have proven their ability to produce enough rice to meet domestic consumption. This is manifested by the drastic increase in rice production in 2019 of which greater quantities still remain unharvested due to lack of harvesting equipment and guaranteed market. Unfortunately, only 34 per cent of Ghanaians consume Ghana rice while 680, 000 tonnes of rice costing $500 million is imported annually.
The PFAG believes that the high appetite for imported rice has significantly contributed to rice millers lacking market for Ghana rice leading to the current rice glut in Northern Ghana. This phenomenon if not addressed with the urgency it deserves, could worsen the poverty situation of smallholder farmers and majority of rural people who still rank as the poorest in the country and thereby negatively impacting on the successes the nation chalked in recent times on the campaign against poverty and food insecurity.
PFAG RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT
1. While PFAG fully supports the pronouncement by government to ban importation of rice by 2022 and other food crops that can be produced in Ghana, PFAG calls for show of commitment of the pronouncement by stringent concrete steps to be put in place as PFAG would rather wish for an immediate ban and not wait until 2022. Adopting Nigeria’s food importation ban concept will not only help to reduce Ghana’s import bill but create employment opportunities in Ghana and stabilize the cedi would as well as put smiles on the faces of smallholder rice farmers. Concrete measures need therefore, to be put in place to commence ban on imports such as reduction in 2020 rice imports.
2. Institutional purchase of local rice by all government institutions such as the school feeding programme, free SHS, the military and para institutions.
3. Government should mandate all banks to increase their loan portfolio with low interest rate on agriculture. There should be flexible procedures for smallholder farmers to be able to access these loans.
4. Increase budget allocation and subsidies for combine harvesters, rice mills and rice packaging materials.
5. Explore new technologies to address aflatoxin and other post-harvest challenges in rice production.
6. Bring storage facilities closer to rice farming areas by first completing the One District One Warehouse programme, commission the completed ones and set up temporary cocoons in the communities.
7. Ensure timely release and distribution of good quality fertilizer and seeds to rice farmers.
8. We thank the government for increasing fertilizer subsidy under the PFJ which contributed to increased rice yield in 2019, however smuggling of fertilizer left made it difficult for most farmers to access the fertilizer. We hope stringent measures will be taken in 2020 for farmers to fully benefit from the fertilizer subsidies.
Finally, PFAG thanks His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for his commitment to developing Ghana through agricultural modernization by introducing the “Planting for Food and Jobs”which supports farmers with fertilizer and seeds and reduce the burden on access to inputs. PFAG is highly optimistic that the above concerns raised would be given the urgent attention they deserve.
Long live Ghana, long live the peasant farmer who continues to toil to put food on the table of Ghanaians.