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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

MoFA owes PFJ seed suppliers GH₵150m

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) owes the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) some GH₵150 million.

This covers seeds supplied in the 2021 planting season, under the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme.

Frustrated by the development, NASTAG has petitioned the Chairman of the National Seed Council to intervene and ensure that they are paid.

In a letter addressed to Josiah Awombil, NSC chairman, NASTAG stated that companies that supplied seeds for the year 2021 have not received any payments or intentions of payment.

While commending the Ministry for taking steps to pay other suppliers under PFJ, namely fertilizer suppliers, NASTAG reminded MoFA that “fertilizer acts on good seeds to be able to influence crop performance and therefore seed should never take a second position in the order of priorities.”

The association further informed the NSC that since about 95% of seed suppliers are locals, they have potential to impact the local economy.

NASTAG also lamented the diminishing effect these payment delays will have on their ability to procure seeds, thus impacting on their ability to pay off any loans their members might have procured to stay in business.

It warned that any further delay in payments will reverse any recent advances in seed sector investments which the PFJ has facilitated.

PFJ provides a marketing channel for seed producers. In 2018 less than 45% of seed producers participated in the Programme compared to over 80% in 2021.

In a study on investment opportunities, gaps and challenges, Lydia Nikoi, consultant at Ag-Soft Links, in 2021 conducted a census on seed producers and companies in Ghana.

It involved the profiling of 280 seed producers and companies using a real-time mobile phone data collection application.

In 2018, the survey shows that the seed sector employed some 6,000 people, but the figure has risen to more than 7,000 people in 2021, an increase of about 17% within two years.

It comprises 1,336 permanent staff, with 44% being women and 5,713 temporary staff, including 58% women.

Overall, Lydia Nikoi said 95% of all certified seeds produced by seed producers in Ghana are Open-pollinated varieties while Hybrid seed production represents 5% in 2018.

She said in 2021, Open-pollinated varieties represented 79% of total seeds production, while hybrid represented 21%.

According to her, certified maize seeds produced, declined from 7,157.50 metric tonnes in 2018 to 5, 670.65 metric tonnes in 2021.

For rice, she stated that certified seeds produced also dropped from 5,307.80 metric tonnes in 2018 to 5,060.01 metric tonnes in 2021.

Regarding sorghum, she noted that certified seeds produced dipped to 16.53 metric tonnes in 2021 from the 332.80 metric tonnes in 2018.

She explained that in both 2018 and 2021, seed producers continue to increase farmers’ uptake of improved certified seeds, through the provision of services like agricultural exhibitions, field demonstrations, and extension services.

She found that in 2021, only 9% of the owners of seed producers and companies are females while 91% are males.

In 2018, Lydia Nikoi said 94% of seed producers/companies were males compared to 6% females.

Educational level of seed producers are tertiary-55%, O’Level, SSS/SHS- 17%, Middle school/ JSS/JHS-17%, vocational training-4%, no formal education-3% and primary-3%.

Regarding type of business ownership, 75.6% are sole ownership, 11.34% are cooperatives, 9.62% are limited companies, 3.09% are partnerships and 0.34% are owned by companies.

The study found that 67.24% of business owners operate the business as full time while 32.07% operate on part-time basis.

Lydia Nikoi found that some 54% of the business had more than six years’ experience in seed production, as well as marketing, as against only 7% having less than a year’s experience.

It was established that 92% produced certified seeds, 13% produced foundation seeds while 19% are certified seed distributors.

Challenges
According to Lydia Nikoi credit facilities topped the challenges facing seed producers with 22% in 2018 and 86% in 2021 alluding to it.

In 2018, she said 41% of seed producers cited promotion as another challenge. The figure rose to 49% in 2021.

While only two per cent said pricing and packaging were challenges in 2018, she stated that the figure rose significantly to 50% in 2021.

The consultant opined that some 18% saw storage as a challenge in 2018, but the percentage however shot up to 43% last year.

For investment as a challenge, she opined that the figure increased from 15% in 2018 to 24% in 2021.

Communication network
She averred that the challenge of communication network rose to 24% last year from just one per cent in 2018.

Lydia Nikoi found that the challenge of limited demand for seeds experienced an increased from just one per cent in 2018 to 16% last year.

She called for support for women and the youth to go into seed production to increase the production and availability of certified seeds, particularly hybrid seeds.

The Consultant pushed for access to credit and investment into some key areas of the seed sub-sector saying it should be of paramount interest to government and financial institutions to inject capital into the seed business.

The areas she mentioned include infrastructure expansion, particularly processing and storage facilities.

Gaps

• There is the need to double efforts with interventions that can attract more female producers into the sector.
• Youth representation in the seed sector is abysmally low.
• Hybrid seed production represents less than 10% of the certified seeds produced.
• There are few seed producers/companies have had training in seed conditioning and marketing.
• Low partnership – encourage producers to open-up their business for collaboration that will foster business growth.
• Marketing and promotion: Although seed producers spend a lot of resources promoting the use of certified seeds, marketing remains one of the key challenges affecting their business. There is, therefore, a need to find innovative ways of promoting use of certified seeds.
• Commercial seed companies also engaged in marketing activities- There’s also the need for seed companies to give room for the smaller retailers to also find ways to do their own marketing.

Opportunities

• Access to finance/Investment: There is a need for seed companies/producers to form partnerships to attract the needed investment, particularly in the processing and storage facilities.
• There is a need to identify innovative and cost-effective ways of promoting the use of seeds among smallholder farmers.
• Establish private seed distribution outlets.
• Most seed producers have some level of experience which is an indication that with a little support they can be efficient and perform well.
• The literacy level of seed producers is another good thing we can leverage on to introduce innovative approaches to seed production to develop the sector.
• The seed sector is one of the avenues for job creation, particularly seed marketing and promotion.
• Foundation seeds for Hybrid maize production is an investment area worth considering since OPV is now widely produced and there is also increased demand for it.
• Currently most seed producers process their seeds manually, with the coming in of big companies, seed producers will have to shift to using machines to remain competitive.

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