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05.03.2009 General News

Peasant farmers fight for access to credit...as they present proposed Bill to Parliament

By William N. Jalulah, - Ghanaian Chronicle

The PEASANT Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has proposed legislation to enhance access to credit for farmers and farm-related enterprises in the country, and also provide safeguard mechanisms to shield producers of import-sensitive agricultural products from unfair competition posed by the unbridled trade liberalisation.

The Bill, to be known as the Agriculture Credit and Competitive Bill, would be presented to Parliament, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Finance.

Mr. John Akaribo, National Secretary of PFAG, who made the disclosure in Bolgatanga, said it was part of the association's advocacy programmes, supported by Business Sector Advocacy Credit (BUSAC) that it proposed to government in 2088, to enact the legislation to enhance farmers access to credit and farm-related enterprises in the country.

According to him, the state institutions that the Bill had been submitted to were expected to respond to the concerns to be addressed by the Bill, and take steps to put the Bill through Parliament for it to become law, either in whole or some modifications, if necessary.

Mr. Akaribo said the Bill was generally proposed to deal with the lending methodologies for reaching credit to small, marginal and sub-marginal farmers, who were located at the base of the pyramid of the agricultural sector.

He said the small and marginal farmers, together constituted nearly 80% of the total cultivators cultivating fragmented land holdings, averaging around 1.5 hectares.

The Bill was also to establish a fund, to be named the Agricultural Credit Fund, which would provide financial resources to farmers and producers of designated, or qualifying agricultural products.

On the funding structure, Mr. Akaribo said it was proposed that capital contribution to the fund would come from a number of sources, but the principal subscribers to the capital of the fund, would be the Government and Bank of Ghana.

He observed that the backbone of every economy was agriculture, and the PFAG intended to go on with the initiative, with the hope that the proposed Bill would engender the desired level of change, with respect to farmers' access to credit and their protection from unfair import competition.

The Secretary dismissed a Ghanaian Times report of February 13, 2009 that tomato farmers in the Upper East Region were demanding shares in the Northern Star Tomato Company at Pwalugu, before they would supply tomatoes to the factory.

Mr. Akaribo said the story was a calculated attempt to push a wedge between the factory and the farmers.

He charged Mr. Philip Abayore, National President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association, who was purported to have granted interview to the Ghanaian Times on the alleged demands of farmers, to retract the story unconditionally, and apologise to farmers for the false statement he made.

He assured the factory that farmers in the region had confidence in it, and would not hesitate to supply it with their produce.

Mr. Akaribo, Focal Person for the Ghana Trade and Likelihood Coalition, in Bolgatanga, Mr. Richard Ayanga, and the Chief Farmer of Vea Irrigation Project, Mr. Adamu Agandaa, expressed worry over the high cost of fertilizers, which a bag was now being sold at GH¢48.

They appealed to the government and other state institutions to assist farmers in that direction.

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