The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, will be delivering the 2021 mid-year budget review today, Thursday 29th July 2021.
The Agric sector will be one of the major focuses during the Minister’s presentation.
The sector continues to be a major driver of the country’s economy, employing about 60% of the country’s labour force.
The agricultural sector is expected to grow at an average of 4.6% between 2021 and 2024, but the mid-year budget review may see this rate revised in the face of the challenges the sector is currently facing.
The principal programme within the sector, the Planting for Food and Jobs, is currently plagued with many challenges, including the unavailability of subsidized fertilizer to farmers.
Poultry farmers have for months complained about the lack of feed for their birds, coupled with the recent outbreak of bird flu.
‘PFJ in limbo’
Farmers, especially in the northern part of Ghana, are unable to access fertilizer and improved seeds for planting.
This has been attributed to the government’s failure to pay suppliers.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto in a recent interview expressed concern about the future of the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme due to the huge debt owed partners of the programme including input suppliers.
The Minister said importers of fertilizer under the PFJ were under siege by their financiers because out of GH¢940 million owed dealers in fertiliser and other subsidies since the beginning of last year.
He said the government has been able to pay only GH¢250 million. The effect of the situation is a drop in crop yields.
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana has already decried the situation, indicating that recording lower yields this year will be inevitable since fertilizer has not been available almost throughout the entire major planting season.
The Head of Programmes and Advocacy of the association, Charles Nyaaba said: “according to those who couldn’t get the fertilizer last year, their yields dropped, compared to the previous years when they were able to get the fertilizer; so the fertilizer has a link to the yields of the crop.”
There are calls for the subsidy initiative to be reviewed so that the government can sustain it and ultimately ensure that the products are made available to farmers to push the planting for food and jobs agenda.
The Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, in whose constituency farming is a major occupation, said thefertilizer subsidy programme is not serving its intended purpose because it is not producing the expected value.
“I think that Parliament must investigate the subsidy programme to find out what has been the pricing arrangement and payment regime. You have a situation where input suppliers supply inputs and get paid 2 years after.”
The legislator said due to the current nature of the programme including the government’s delay in paying them, suppliers tend to inflate the price of the fertilizers and other inputs to make up for accrued interests on loans they use to undertake the contract.
He said while the subsidy programme which is aimed at boosting the Planting for Food and Jobs programme is laudable, it is not efficient.
“It is not an efficient way of going about it… There is sometimes what appears to be a laudable national policy but a policy that lends itself to a behaviour where everybody cashes in on the state, in the end, you will have any prudent finance minister getting fed up,” he said.
The Finance Ministry may make a case for a review of the programme to ensure that the government does not sink so much money into it but yield very little result.
‘Woes of poultry farmers’
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture on Friday, July 16, 2021, announced the outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza disease, also known as Bird Flu, in the Greater Accra, Central and Volta Regions.
It consequently banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from neighbouring countries where the prevalence of the disease has been confirmed, and also banned the movement of poultry and poultry products within and from the affected regions and districts to other parts of the country, and strict inspection and issuance of permits to cover the movement of all poultry and poultry products from unaffected parts of the country.
This development means that poultry production is going to see a significant reduction, at least for this year.
The Greater Accra Poultry Farmers Association (GAFA) confirmed the fears by indicating that their businesses face collapse.
The President of the Greater Accra Poultry Farmers Association, Michael Nyarko Ampem, in a Citi News interview, said before the announcement of the outbreak of the disease, poultry farmers were struggling to get feed for their birds which led to low production.
“It is a double blow because we are reeling under the unavailability of maize and other resources for production and then this [outbreak] comes in. It is a big blow, and it is really going to affect the way we do things because the government said importation of day-old chicks from neighbouring countries that have been affected has been banned, so it is going to affect the already precarious situation and make it worse. It is a not pleasant time for poultry farmers,” he said.
The current happenings are major incidents that have the potential of misaligning Ghana’s budget estimates, especially the contribution of the agricultural sector.
Some pragmatic measures will therefore need to be taken starting from the 2021 midyear budget review to avert a situation of a significant decline in the growth of the agricultural sector.