The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has appealed to the government to, as a matter of urgency, withdraw taxes on agro-inputs to reduce the cost of production in agriculture.
That, they said, would enable smallholder farmers to produce more food for the populace and reduce the high food inflation in the country.
The Executive Director of PFAG, Dr Charles Nyaaba, made the appeal at a workshop in Accra to discuss the inclusive participation of women in government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative.
Aside from the taxes, he said the government should speedily implement the PFJ with clear guidance on the role of women in the aggregation system, resource all national, regional and district offices of WIAD with logistics to operate and also deal with real farmers and not social farmers who were competing with the real farmers for government support, among others.
Dr Nyaaba said association was willing to contribute its best to revise the current food inflation and also supply enough tomatoes, onions, pepper, cassava, yam, soya and beans to avoid the country’s dependence on neighbouring countries for these produce.
“We can only do this if the government creates an enabling environment for smallholder farmers, especially women, to operate,” he stated.
He noted that it was important to support women farmers because they accounted for over 70 per cent of total food production and dominated in value addition, processing, packaging and trading in all kinds of food commodities.
Also, women, he said, took the risk of travelling to the hinterlands and outside the country to bring in food items anytime there were shortages in the country; however, “Many women are seen as labourers with little decision-making power rather than as independent farmers in need of support.”
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), he said, had indicated that improving women’s access to productive resources would enable them to produce 20-30 per cent more food, with positive impacts on children’s nutrition, health and education and could increase national agricultural outputs by four per cent.
No money for farmers
The executive director commended the government for its initiative to support farmers with different interventions, including PFJ.
Although the implementation of PFJ rejuvenated the interest in agriculture and chalked up some successes leading to agricultural growth of about 6.4 in 2018, the PFAG analysis of the programme in 2022 found a series of challenges, including difficulty in paying fertiliser and seed suppliers, smuggling and poor quality of seeds and fertiliser.
Following a call for the review of the programme, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced a revision of the programme this year with the highest budget allocation of GH¢2,366,54318, representing 1.95 per cent in 2023, as against GH¢1,183,292,00 in 2022, representing 1.86 per cent in 2022.
However, he said, “We are in the third quarter of the year and no pesewa has been spent on farmers yet”.
The development, in addition to the waiver of taxes on agro-inputs in 2023, had escalated the cost of production for many smallholder farmers, especially women.
“This led to many of them reducing their farm sizes, others farming without putting the right inputs, and many abandoning their farming for non-farm activities. The results are the current shortage of various food items in the market and high food inflation of 54 per cent in June 2023,” he emphasised, and thus called on the government to address their challenges to reverse the trend of the high cost of food.
A representative of the Peasant Farmers Association, Stella Chibelitu, noted that there had not been a deliberate effort to address the challenges that women faced in the agricultural sector.
With the new programme, the government was planning to channel support under the new PFJ through an aggregator, therefore, Ms Chibelitu appealed for more women to be made aggregators.
“Government must not leave women out of the PGJ since it is mostly women who lead the buying and selling of agricultural goods,” she said, calling for the inclusion of farmer groups and female aggregators who would be able to make good use of the support to benefit the country.
SOURCE: graphic online