Accra, March 23, GNA – The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) has urged the Government to conduct an audit of the Planting For Food and Jobs (PFJ) Programme to identify the issues impeding the effective implementation of the Project.
The Association urged the Government not cut expenditure earmarked for the Programme and the agriculture sector at large in the wake of the economic challenges confronting the country. In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Mr Edward Kareweh, the General Secretary of GAWU, asked the Government to rescind its decision to reduce its subsidy for fertilisers from 50 per cent to 15 per cent.
He said the move would “seriously affect the output of farmers” and would have serious consequences on agriculture production. “Farmers are already struggling. The Meteorological Agency has forewarned that we are going to have delayed rainfall period this year. When the fertilisers are so expensive such that farmers cannot afford, it will lead to low application of fertiliser and output will be low,” he said.
In the agriculture sector, the PFJ is Government’s flagship project. The Programme was launched in 2017 to promote food security and immediate availability of selected food crops on the market and also provide jobs. This year, Government earmarked GH¢614million (US$98 million) for the implementation of the PFJ programme. The amount is an increase from GH¢439million (US$70million) spent in the 2021 planting season. The GH¢614million allocated for the PFJ this year constitute about 59.5 per cent of total budget for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture allocation for 2022 – GH¢1.1billion.
Assessing the performance of the PFJ thus far, Mr Kareweh said the Programme had not achieved its objective of ensuring food security and affordability five years after its implementation. Mr Kareweh cited the frequent shortages of maize as well as the “skyrocketing” cost of food items as indicators that the Programme could have done better.
“The PFJ is a failure based on its own objective…It has not achieved its objective and we need to do a serious audit of it and then to see how we can rejuvenate it to play the role that we want it to play in our national economic development,” he said. He said the Government must take steps to check the smuggling of subsidised fertilisers and ensure that the fertilisers reached targeted beneficiaries. “We must make sure that we get value for what we are spending on the Programme.
All the loopholes in the agriculture should be blocked,” he said. The average share of the agriculture sector to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 19.1 per cent in the first half of 2020 to 21.3 per cent for the same period in 2021. The sector employs about 60 per cent of the population and accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s land area.