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Govt Owes Fertiliser Companies GH¢64 Million   
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The government has not been able to roll out the national fertiliser subsidy programme for the 2014 cropping season.

This is due to its inability to pay fertiliser companies a total amount of GH¢64 million being subsidies on fertiliser distributed by the companies in 2013.

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Fifi Fiavi Kwetey, who announced this during question time in Parliament last Tuesday, said the fertiliser companies had indicated that with the amount outstanding, they could not continue the subsidy programme for the 2014 cropping season.

He said the government paid GHC 46 million of the aforementioned debt only last week.

The member for Walewale, Dr Sagre Bambangi, had sought to know from the Minister when the distribution of subsidised fertilisers to farmers would commence in the outgoing cropping season.

The question, filed on November 6, this year, was of an urgent nature.

Mr Kwetey said although the national fertiliser subsidy programme was not rolled out because of the aforementioned reason, there were targeted fertiliser subsidies for rice production in the 2014 season.

According to him, under the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) sponsored rice project, a total of 49,953 bags of fertiliser had been given out to rice farmers in the Northern, Upper East and Volta regions.

The objective, he added, was to increase rice production and reduce imports into the country.

Also, Mr Kwetey said, under the Enhanced Access to Quality Seed Initiative being funded by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme, 6,000 bags of fertiliser had been distributed to 2,000 rice growers in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Northern regions to boost rice production.

The cost of the two interventions, he said, was GH¢2,113,305.
Cost of basic food items

Answering another question filed by the member for Kwadaso, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, on what steps the ministry was taking to reduce the rising cost of food items, such as rice, tomatoes, cooking oil and meat, Mr Kwetey said the question could best be handled by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

That ministry, he said, was in charge of the import - export trade.

However, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, being the ministry responsible for facilitating local agricultural production for food and security and import substitution, the minister proferred some answers.

He said the ministry had initiated moves to boost cooking oil production by supporting the planting of oil palm.

Next year, Mr Kwetey said, the ministry, with the support of some private donor organisations, would establish central nurseries to distribute 100,000 improved oil palm planting materials and provide technical back stopping and training to farmers in good agronomic practices.

With regard to rice production, Mr Kwetey said the ministry, in collaboration with EDAIF had started a project to stimulate growth in the rice industry and for that matter to step up rice production.

Mr Kwetey said this year, a total of 7,000 hectares of rice fields had been cultivated with 1,000 farmers as beneficiaries.

The minister said it was expected that 16, 000 metric tonnes of milled rice would be produced.
Source: Daily Graphic

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