Ghana is collaborating with India to manufacture fertilizer in Ghana from by-products from the emerging oil and gas industry, Mr Yaw Effah-Baafi, Deputy Minster of Food and Agriculture in-charge of crops said on Tuesday.
He said the high cost of fertilizer coupled with ignorance on the economic returns to fertilizer use had made the input unattractive to farmers and this was a major concern for the government.
Mr Effah-Baafi was addressing the opening of the 22nd Annual General Conference of Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association of Ghana (ASTAG) in Sunyani.
More than 50 participants are attending the five-day conference, which is under the theme: “In-service Training: A Strategy for Effective Implementation of Agricultural Education Reforms in Ghana”.
Mr Effah-Baafi explained that the estimated fertilizer application in Ghana was eight kilograms per hectare, as compared to an average of 20 Kg per hectare in Sub-Saharan Africa, 99 kg per hectare in Latin America, 109 kg per hectare in South Asia and 149 kg per hectare in East and South East Asia.
Mr Effah-Baafi disclosed that government budgeted GH¢ 34,417 million in 2009, covering 72,795 metric tons of fertilizers, under a fertilizer subsidy programme.
In 2008, the government spent GH¢ 20,654 million on fertilizer subsidy with the view to increasing crop productivity, he added.
Mr Effah-Baafi said this year farmers were being provided with 100,000 metric tons of fertilizer at the cost of GH¢ 32 million under the fertilizer subsidy programme.
“If fertilizer is produced cheaply in the country it certainly will reduce its imports and cost to the farmer resulting in increased productivity and lower cost of production to make our produce more competitive on the world market,” he added.
The Deputy Minister noted that petrochemicals were used in the production of most of the herbicides and pesticides found on the shelves of the agrochemical shops in Ghana.
He gave the assurance that the ministry would continue to pursue policies that would explore the opportunities, promote food security and ensure that agriculture was done in a sustainable manner.
To this end, Mr. Effah-Baafi said, the ministry was collaborating with the research institutions to develop high yielding varieties of crops and improved breeds of livestock to increase productivity and reduce post-harvest losses as much as possible.
Mr Isaac Asiegbor, President of the ASTAG, emphasized that the need to prepare the youth to participate actively in the agricultural industry called for the introduction of new topics such as information and communication technology in agricultural education and training, agriculture value chains, food safety and quality standards.
He stressed the importance to create awareness in civil society on the challenges facing agricultural and environmental education and to provide strategies to implement the agricultural reform programme to ensure its success.
Asiegbor mentioned inadequate facilities and resources for skill development as well as lack of quality control and effective monitoring system among others as some of the challenges in agricultural education and training in Ghana.
Mr Thomas Ahima, first national best farmer, who presided, noted with concern that most people failed in farming because of lack of theoretical aspect of the vocation.
The role of agricultural teachers in modern farming could therefore not be overemphasized, he said.