Agric Minister urge smallholder farmers to use organic fertilizer

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The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has urged smallholder farmers to use organic fertilizer in crop production in the wake of global fertilizer shortage.

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture

This, the ministry said, was to mitigate the impact on crop production and farmers, increase yield and prevent a possible food shortage in the country.

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, said this when he inaugurated the first board of the National Fertilizer Council, in Accra.

“We at the Ministry have a strategy to, at least, alleviate the full impact of what is happening which is to encourage farmers to apply organic fertilizer. We know that, for instance, poultry manure is being exported from this country to neighbouring countries who are using it in their farms.

“We should, therefore, be able to use this organic fertilizers locally to continue promoting our increase in the country,” he said.

The seven-member board, chaired by Nana Serwah Bonsu Amoako, Special Advisor, Ghana Fertilizer Expansion Programme at the Office of the President, has Mr Bentsil Quaye, the Acting Director, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) and Mr Seth Osei-Akoto, the Director, Directorate of Crop Services at the Ministry, as members.

The rest are — Dr Edward Yeboah, the Director-General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research — Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), Mr Danquah Addo-Yobo, Representative from Yara Ghana,

Fertilizer Manufacturers and Importers, Mr John Awuku Dziwornu from National Farmers’ Association and Mr Ebenezer Appah-Sampong from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Prices of inorganic fertilizer on the world market are on record high since the turn of the year due to the rise in prices of raw materials such as ammonia, nitrogen, nitrates, phosphates and potash, the main components of  fertilizer.

Russia which accounts for around 14 per cent of global fertilizer exports, has temporarily suspended outgoing trade since its invasion of Ukraine in early February this year, exacerbating the situation.

Dr Akoto said government’s effort in terms of transforming the country’s agriculture depended hugely on the use of fertilizer and improved seed, noting that, since it assumed office in 2017, it had increased the average of fertilizer application by Ghanaian farmers to about 25kg per hectare from an 8kg per hectare in 2016.

Despite this, Dr Akoto said, more needed to be done if the country was to achieve the ECOWAS’ target of 50kg per hectare, as well as the world average of 130kg per hectare.

“So although we have made a lot of efforts in bringing up the average application of fertilizer, we are still very far away from either the West African target of 50kg per hectare. We are only half of that,” he said.

Unfortunately, there is a setback in terms of what is happening on the world market, he said, noting that, in the last 18 months, world fertilizer market had turned upside down with huge shortage on the global market.

“Prices skyrocketing from $350 per metric ton of Urea for instance, landed at the port of Tema which went as high as $1,200 and started coming down but with the Ukraine crisis, I don’t know where it is now. So, we have a problem, that is in terms of availability and price,” he said.

Dr Akoto said, to mitigate the plight of farmers in the future, the Ministry was working assiduously with relevant agencies and private companies to fast track the construction of the fertilizer manufacturing plant for the country.

He said: “We have done that in collaboration with OCP which is the fertilizer company of Morocco. We’ve had a whole series of meetings and workshops and a lot of interactions and we have been talking to private companies, banks and so on.

“We should be able to attract the right investment to start the construction of a fertilizer plant in Ghana,” he said.

The Minister urged the board to put in place medium term solution to mitigate the plight of farmers as government strived for a long term solution to the problem.

Ms Amoako, the Chairperson of the board, assured the Minister of the Board’s readiness to find immediate to long term sustainable solutions to help farmers in the country.

“We will first work with the  Ministry to implement its strategy to mitigate the current fertilizer crisis by promoting the use of organic fertilizers, including local poultry manure, which is cheaper and of equal quality,” she said.

She added that, in the long term, the board would help in the construction of a home-grown world scale fertilizer manufacturing plant, cushion the country against global fertilizer price shocks.

Ms Amoako said the board would update the Fertilizer Policy and Act to march trends in the sector.

By Benjamin A. Commey, GNA

 

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