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2015 Budget Should Focus On Women In Agric   
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Two civil societies, Send Ghana and the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), expect the government to state clearly in the 2015-2017 budget a direct budget line that will specifically go to support women in agriculture.

According to the bodies, their analysis of the 2012 Ghana’s budgetary allocation to agriculture shows less than two per cent of total allocation to the agricultural sector, an illustration of the impact of the underfunding on the sector.

With such poor level of investment, it was evident that the country was too far away from the Maputo commitment to make at least 10 per cent of budget allocation to the sector, and that may obviously portend negative implications for food and nutrition security.

The demand by the two groups is part of a list of interventions they expect for the agriculture sector in the 2015-2017 budget set to be laid before Parliament on November 19.

The Country Director of SEND Ghana, Mr George Osei-Bimpeh, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the country had often engaged in tokenism in terms of the support that was provided to them.

“This time round we want direct budget line that will specifically go to support women in agric,” he said.

Agric extension services

The two groups described as abysmal, agric extension services available to the farmers in the country.

According to them, the ratio is one extension officer to about 1,500 farmers.

Therefore, government would have to increase expenditure in terms of employing those who have finished agric colleges and are not yet employed due some moratorium on public sector employment.

“Extension service is very critical to realising improved agriculture,” Mr Osei-Bimpeh said.

Research conducted by SEND-GHANA in 2010 indicates that a substantial proportion of agricultural sector investment goes into recurrent expenditure, leaving just a little for direct capital investment and agricultural search and innovations.

In 2014, the smallholder agriculture sub-sector is still plagued with constraints, including large imports of food products such as rice, tomato concentrates, poultry, high cost of factors of production such as fertiliser, seed, chemicals, access to finance, inadequate and poor storage facilities, post-harvest management, few irrigation sites; poor infrastructure such as access roads, inadequate market access, agricultural advisory services (extension).

Fertiliser subsidy programme

They alleged that the government’s own Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP) would end by 2015 and wondered why no allocation had been made this year.

They emphasised that it was important for government to ensure that resources were allocated for the implementation of the subsidy scheme.

This is because food played a strategic role, not only in nutritional requirement, but also in terms of ensuring macroeconomic stability through the inflation basket.

The fate of the FSP initiated by the government in 2008 to help farmers increase the rate of fertiliser application to increase yield now hangs in the balance. Although the 2014 Budget indicated the government would continue the scheme by distributing 180,000 metric tonnes of subsidised fertiliser, as of half year 2014, there is no single subsidised fertiliser on the market; a situation stakeholders say is gravely affecting crop farmers, particularly those in the Upper East and Upper West regions of the country.

Already, the planting season is over in most of the areas where the fertilisers were badly needed, especially for maize and rice production.

Social interventions

Mr Osei- Bimpeh said that budget would be anchored on home-grown and International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, they expect it to respond to the needs of the poor.

“Given that the implementation of these austerity measures is going to have a lot will have a lot of implications on the pocket of the poor so we should have a social safety net which is more consolidated to take care of the needs of the poor,” he said.

He acknowledged there is the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), capitation grant and school feeding, “but how do we ensure that the money that we actually budget for are actually disbursed on time. So it is not about increasing it but actually going ahead to ensure prompt release of such of funds. Once you delay in the release of funds such as NHIS, people who qualify are turned away.”

He recommended that the government takes measures to ensure that the schemes are well resourced and that monies are collected so service provided could be paid for within a reasonable period of time so they can deliver services to those who cannot afford expensive health care.

He cautioned government to be more disciplined so as not to overspend to send the country back to such shock waves in the macroeconomic environment. Over the years, he said Ghana had recorded huge deficit just because it had not been disciplined enough in terms of its expenditure pattern.
Source: Graphic Online

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