Some local seed producers in the Central Region have appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to sustain and strengthen the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
According to them, the successful execution of the programme is vital for the revival of the agricultural sector since it will not only ensure regular and sustainable supply of food but also promote the local agribusiness.
Speaking to the media during a visit to the Central Region by the Minister of Food and Agriculture and his entourage, the local seed producers noted that the introduction of the PFJ programme has helped boost their business in terms of yields and demand.
According to them, with the supply of subsidised fertilizers coupled with extension support, their yields for 2017 crop season increased by more than fifty percent (50%)
Mr. Jeremy Bart Addison, who is one of the farmers producing foundation seeds for supply to beneficiaries of the PFJ programme, said he was currently doing 25 acres of maize at his farm located at Mprepremu for supply to the programme.
He said he was able to afford fertilizers for his farm because of the huge subsidy, adding that it is a significant improvement from previous years.
Mr. Bart Addison therefore appealed to government to increase investment in the local seed production.
According to him, local seed production industry can survive if government can implement deliberate policies and programme targeted at increasing their capacities.
He said though the PFJ initiative had injected fresh impetus into their business in terms of increase in demand, there were still many challenges that ought to be addressed in the course of implementation.
He mentioned for example, the lack of storage and processing facilities to guarantee the quality of seeds produced, as well as prolonging their lifespan.
Currently, government imports a chunk of improved seeds supplied to farmers under the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme from abroad due to lack of capacity.
However, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto says government is determined to reverse this trend by supporting local seed producers to increase their capacity.
He stated that already the Ministry has reached agreements with local institutions such as the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Council For Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as well as the six public universities in the country to produce seeds locally to support the PFJ programme.
“We have challenged these institutions to provide us with the seeds needed to supply to our farmers because we cannot continue to import seeds from abroad.We want to increase the capacity of our local seed producers and also ensure that all these huge dollars we are using to import the raw materials remain in the country to boost our economy” He said.
In order to address the delay in the supply of the quality seeds, the Minister hinted that the Ministry intends to award contracts to suppliers latest by December 31, 2018.
This, according to him, will offer the suppliers enough time to produce and supply to the Ministry for the programme.
THE REGIONAL TOUR
Earlier on, the Minister paid an inspection tour to the Grains and Legumes Development facility at Winneba to inspect facilities meant for the production and processing of foundation seeds for farmers.
The facility, which was established several years ago, is currently operating below capacity despite its huge potentials in research and production of quality seeds for farmers in the country.
Whilst some of the machines and equipment had become rusty due to lack of use and regular maintenance, others had been become totally abandoned.
However, with the few ones that were being utilized, managers of the facility complained about huge electricity and operation cost, forcing them to occasionally shut them down.
Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto pledged that immediate steps would be taken to bring the facility back on stream since it was vital to the implementation of the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
He said funds would be made available to pay offset the huge electricity bills so that the cold rooms, particularly can become functional for the storage of the foundation seeds meant for supply to beneficiaries of the PFJ programme.
Meanwhile, the Minister and his entourage will be in the Western Region on Monday and Tuesday for the last leg of the regional field visits.
He is expected to visit Shama Ahanta, Aboadi and Badukrom.