Fertilizer importing companies have been advised to deliver their goods on time and to set up storage facilities in remote areas to stock fertilizers to increase timely access to farmers.
Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Food and Agriculture, said this a speech read on his behalf on Thursday at the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) West Africa Fertilizer Programme launch in Accra.
The five-year project seeks to significantly increase food security and reduce poverty and hunger in West Africa.
It is designed to increase smallholder farmers’ use of fertilizer in order to increase agricultural productivity and thereby reduce poverty and hunger in West Africa.
Mr Ahwoi said the collaboration between private fertilizer companies and the government should further be strengthened to promote increased fertilizer use.
“The banks are encouraged to provide affordable loans to all the actors on the fertilizer supply chain, whiles institutions that are capable of providing farmers with guarantees should assist small holder farmers”, he said.
Mr Ahwoi lauded contributions made by agro-dealers and said they played critical role in bringing retail prices of fertilizers down and making them more affordable and accessible to farmers.
He said by building the capacity of the agro-dealers and giving them credit, they might be in a position to move closer to the farm gates which would help remove internal transport costs and travel times of farmers to access input.
Mr Ahwoi said the government was in “talks with foreign investors to establish fertilizer production plant…to take advantage of the by-products from Ghana’s crude oil production”.
He said the government had passed the Plant and Fertilizer Act, 2010 (Act 803) and had set up the necessary Fertilizer Regulatory System to ensure that fertilizers imported or produced locally were in the highest quality and contained the right nutrients and bag weight to protect farmers, businessmen and the environment.
Mr Ahwoi expressed hope that countries in the sub-region would align themselves with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Fertilizer Regulation to create a bigger sub-regional market which allows unimpeded trade of high quality fertilizer.
Dr Kofi Debrah, Chief of Party to the USAID West Africa Fertilizer Programme, said the project was being implemented by the International Fertilizer Development Centre in collaboration with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, an independent non-profit organization, as a sub-guarantee.
He explained that the programme would establish a private-public sector West Africa Fertilizer Stakeholder Forum and a possible formation of a private sector-led West Africa Fertilizer Trade Association.
“It will establish and monitor fertilizer quality standards to decrease incidents of adulterated fertilizer products.”
The project which is to be implemented in Ghana, Senegal, Liberia and Mali is targeting actors along the agricultural value chain.
Dr Debrah said fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa was the world’s lowest, averaging less than eight kilogrammes per hectare annually.
He said African farmers needed to have mineral fertilizers that brought life back to the depleted soils and to feed the continent.
Dr Debrah expressed worry that small-scale farmers, who comprised the vast majority of the farming population, had little access to fertilizers and few could afford them.
He identified challenges to higher agricultural productivity to include tariff and non-tariff barriers impeding intra regional trade, blanket use of outdated fertilizer recommendations, inadequate quality control, limited access to market information and finance credit.
Dr Debrah expressed optimism that the USAID sponsored West Africa fertilizer programme would achieve result with positive rippling effects on the economies of beneficiary countries and households.