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18.01.2005 Regional News

Convert PAF into agric subsidies, Gov't told

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Wa, Jan. 18, GNA - Kuoro Buktie Liman, President of the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs on Monday called for the conversion of funds loaned to groups under the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) into subsidising farm inputs to boost agricultural production.

Apart from the very low recovery of loaned funds, he observed that PAF was more often used to serve political interest groups to the detriment of those who actually needed money for productive activities. Making the call in an interview with the Ghana News Agency at Wa on Monday, Kuoro Liman said there has not been a phenomenal growth in agricultural output in recent years due to the high cost of inputs, which had made agriculture unattractive to the youth.

He said the monies, which were given out on loans were very paltry and the vulnerable groups were often denied because they lacked clout or had no frontman to help them to source the funds.

Kuoro Liman, who is the Paramount Chief of Gwollu Traditional Area in the Sissala West District and also National Chairman of the Cotton Farmers Association, noted that the number of farmers engaged in cotton production had been dwindling yearly due to its high cost of production. While praising the President for his proposed special initiatives on cotton and sorghum, he said the initiative on cotton, particularly was in danger of failing if it was launched without any serious efforts to address the issue of subsidies.

"Any presidential initiative on cotton without subsidies to back the supply of tools and inputs will leave the initiative hanging or off balance because there are currently no cotton farmers to benefit from it."

According to him, most of the cotton farmers were operating at a loss and as a result, they were constantly moving from the cotton fields to the cultivation of less laborious and less input dependent crops like groundnuts and sorghum.

Kuoro Liman, who is also a Wa-based legal practitioner said, "in most of our villages you cannot get a single cotton farmer now because it was unattractive to cultivate it and those of us who have remained are only subsidising the operations of the cotton companies." He appealed to the government to assist cotton farming groups to purchase tractors to relieve them of their over dependence on the cotton companies for the ploughing of their fields.

He welcomed the initiative on sorghum and said cotton farmers were already diversifying into its production and noted that an increase in its production would be of immense benefits to the country's breweries. The chief also called on the government to intensify efforts at reviving the rice industry in the North.

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