The first annual West African Fertiliser Stakeholders' Forum was opened in Accra yesterday, with a call on participants to discuss the issue of subsidies, as well as find practical ways to improve upon their implementation.
This is to ensure that fertiliser reaches the intended beneficiaries at a price that is affordable.
The two-day forum was hosted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the theme: 'Ensuring a favourable policy and regulatory environment for fertiliser trade and use in West Africa'.
It was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) West Africa Fertiliser Programme and implemented by the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) and the African Fertiliser and Agriculture Business Partnership (AFAP).
The forum brought together fertiliser stakeholders, such as public officials, policy makers, international manufacturers and traders, importers, blenders, distributors, farmer-based organisations, among others.
They will also discuss practical approaches to achieving increased availability and use of fertilisers in West Africa.
Addressing participants at the opening ceremony, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, said the government was concerned about the low use of fertiliser, which was currently estimated at eight to 10 kilogrammes per hectare, compared to a global average of 107kg per hectare.
That low application rate, he said, was due to, among other things, the high cost of fertiliser, lack of access, improper application rates and low profitability.
Mr Humado stressed the need to address issues of the marginalised and the poor and also ensure the social inclusion of vulnerable groups in agricultural development programmes.
In his address, the Minister of State at the Presidency in charge of Financial and Allied Institutions, Mr Fiifi Kwettey, said the agricultural sector played a dominant role in the economy, as it contributed two per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The sector, he said, employed over 60 per cent of the labour force.
He, therefore, stressed the need to offer farmers a range of fertiliser products, given the state of soil conditions across areas, adding that increased fertiliser use was part of a broader goal of achieving healthier soils for increased productivity.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Agricultural Development, Dr Marc Atouga, also called for private sector investment in agriculture.
He urged the various governments in West Africa to play active roles in the fertiliser market, with the intent to expand access to fertiliser use for the benefit of all.
By Zainabu Issah/Daily Graphic/Ghana