Rising fertilizer cost threatens food security

Business News of Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Source: B&FT

Vegetables Image

The rising costs of fertilizer on the open market is gradually becoming a hindrance to food production thereby threatening the food security of the country, Dr. Ebenezer Annan-Afful, a researcher officer at the Crop Research Institute has warned.

“For Ghana to achieve a sustainable agricultural sector, farmers would have to increase the productivity of their crops through the use of fertilizers which are from authentic sources. It is also necessary that farmers get access to fertilizers that are affordable but also from sources that the quality of the fertilizers are guaranteed.

“Price of commercial fertilizers continue to increase and is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to cope with the rising cost, hence contributing to the overall low use of nutrient inputs in Ghana. With the ever increasing population with the same piece of land, the only alternative is for farmers to increase their productivity, especially rice,” Dr. Annan-Afful said.

Although Ghana’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, the sector can only boast of smallholder farmers with average farm size of less than two hectares.

“Yields are generally low and one of the major contributors to low yields is poor soil fertility resulting from nutrient depletion and low input use. Productivity of the rice crop especially, can largely be increased through the use of fertilizers,” he added.

But despite their overwhelming advantages, the use of fertilizer have not gone without questions being raised about their overall sustainability.

The questions often posed include whether fertilizers are applied at the appropriate rates, time and also whether right methods are being used.

But responding to these concerns, Dr. Annan-Afful, was emphatic adding that: “if these are not well done, they may cause problems by draining into water bodies and may not be sustainable.

While he lauded government-backed institutions that are offering extension services to farmers, he singled out YARA, a lead fertilizer distributor, as also performing remarkably by offering timely advice to smallholder farmers.

“Fertilizer companies like Yara, can play a role to sustain Ghana’s agricultural sector in this regard,” Dr. Annan-Afful said.

Although many fertilizer companies folded up last year following the expiration of government’s subsidies, he appealed to the few companies that survived to emulate Yara’s fine example which among other things offers training to small holder farmers on the type of crops to grow for food and income as well as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to increase their yields.

He stated that training on the handling of Post-Harvest Losses is very key to ensuring food security in the country.