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Fertilizer coupon system must go!

By Daily Guide
Fertilizer coupon system must go!

Ghanaian farmers at work Majority of Ghanaian farmers CITY&BUSINESS GUIDE spoke to recently called on the government to scrap off the coupon system of supplying subsidized fertilizers to them and use a new method.

They suggested that the new approach should enable fertilizer manufacturers devise a way of packaging the product with a unique colour and a coat of arms on the fertilizer bag.

The farmers further recommended that the fertilizer bags should bear inscriptions such as, “Government Special Intervention Fertilizers”, with the subsidized price boldly written on it to enable the farmers get easy access to it.

The new system, they believe, will go a long way to save cost on printing and administering coupons.

The farmers told this paper in a telephone interview that even though subsidies are necessary to cushion farmers, the subsidized fertilizers are not getting to the majority of farmers in the country. Those who even have access to them do not receive them on time, they stated.

“The coupon system is not transparent. Farmers have to walk many miles to the agric office just to be told that the coupons are finished or the officer in charge has traveled,” Kojo Konadu, a farmer in Brong Ahafo region noted.

He alleged: “So many officers and persons involved in the coupons system have fertilizers shop and are collaborating with some officials to return the coupons for claims of large sums of money making Government effort worthless.”

Mr Konadu stated that Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG) was not involved in the government's special intervention of fertilizer, even though the association is closer to the farmers and could easily distribute the fertilizers to them without any problem.

The farmers also called for a significant price reduction in fertilizer prices.

Last year, the price of NPK fertilizer and Sulphate Ammonium fertilizer was GH¢26 and GH¢18 respectively.  Dealers in these fertilizers attributed the high cost of these fertilizers to prices of crude oil on the world market which was then sold at $140 per barrel.

Now that the price of the commodity has reduced drastically from $140 to about $42 per barrel, one expects that the prices of the afore-mentioned fertilizers will also come down; but this is not the case.  

Prices of NPK fertilizer and Sulphate Ammonium fertilizer had rather shot up to GH¢52 and GH¢38 respectively.

“This is not fair to farmers,” John Abugri, another farmer in the Northern Region lamented, proposing that farmers should be assisted by the government to import their own fertilizers in order to break the monopoly of high price of the product.

He pointed out that since the price of crude is now hovering around $42 per barrel, the price of NPK be reduced to GH¢25 while that of  Sulphate Ammonium fertilizer be sold at GH¢15.

Cudjoe Mensah, a tomato farmer at Ada in the Ga Adangbe District of Greater Accra Region insisted that even if the fertilizer prices are reduced by the dealers, government must still subsidize it further and support farmers.

This, according to him, would boost food production and stabilize the economy in the midst of the current global economic recession.

“Government should focus on dealing directly with the farmers' association without any intermediaries since they are the practical stakeholders in the agric sector,” he stated.

The farmers also appealed to the government to take a second look at the structures and management of Ministry of Agriculture.  According to them, the ministry must be restructured to solve the current challenges facing the fishers and farmers and to be more problem solving, solution finding and result oriented.

“The ministry operates like a referee, a goalkeeper and player ignoring farmers and the fishers.  This is one of the factors hindering the progress of the development of the agric sector,” Richard Nuame, a farmer at Akatsi said.

The farmers suggested that a new department be created in the agric sector to be in charge of policies, while the main ministry remains a policy-making body only.

By Felix Dela Klutse