Mr. Abdul Razaque Ziblim Salifu, the Western Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), has advised oil palm farmers to embrace alternative livelihood programmes so as to diversify their sources of revenues.
He said alternative livelihoods such as grass-cutter rearing, piggery, snail rearing and aquaculture would increase their income and safeguard their financial independence.
Mr. Salifu gave the advice at the 10th Annual General Meeting of Benso Small Holder Out-growers Association of the Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP).
He tasked the Association to register their members at the District Office of MOFA so that they could access electronic-agriculture information; and they could be linked to suppliers of subsidised fertilisers.
Mr. Salifu encouraged members of the Association to expand their farms in order to increase their production levels, saying between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the palm fruits supplied to oil palm milling factories in Malaysia and Indonesia were produced by small holder out-growers.
He advised them to use organic manure to improve the soil fertility towards increasing their yields.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an international organisation, which issues certification on best practices in palm fruits preservation, had granted the Association a five-year certification for observing the standards required in the industry, he announced happily.
Mr. Kwasi Baah Ofori, the Senior Divisional Manager in -charge of Estates at BOPP, said the company had increased the quantities of fertilisers supplied to each palm tree from 2.5 kilos to 6.5 per year, which had increased the production levels of farmers.
He said small holder oil palm farmers in the area supplied 25 per cent of the 25,971 metric tonnes of palm fruits it processed last year.
Mr. Fiifi Ampong, the General-Secretary of the Association, said the membership of the Association stood at 438; but their greatest challenge was non-availability of subsidised fertilisers and appealed to the Government to go to their aid.
He also expressed displeasure with pricing of crude palm oil and said that a Committee had been constituted to negotiate with the management of BOPP for better pricing.
Mr. Kobina Amofa, the Marketing Manager of Ahantaman Rural Bank, assured the farmers that the Bank was prepared to offer them flexible loans to expand their farms and businesses.