As the country focuses on counting the contributions of farmers on the December 6 holiday, peasants farmers say they are focused on counting their losses.
“There is nothing to celebrate when some members are still counting on their losses,” the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
They point out that their members are battling with post-harvest losses and lack of market such as is the case for rice farmers.
The peasant farmers called the celebration of Farmers’ Day, ridiculous.
While commending the government for setting aside a day to appreciate farmers’ role in Ghana’s development, the PFAG wants to see serious attention paid to the plight of farmers.
Farmers’ Day is celebrated on the first Friday of December every year to award hardworking farmers and fisherfolks.
This year’s celebration is the 35th edition and will be held in Volta region.
This year’s Farmers’ Day celebrations is themed: “Enhancing Small Scale Agriculture towards Agribusiness Development.”
Farmers Day was instituted in 1985 by the Ghana government after agricultural sector posted a 30 percent growth in 1984.
This was a significant improvement over 1982 and 1983 when the country suffered a severe drought. The first Farmers’ Day was celebrated in Osino, located in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where the drought was most severe.
On the first celebration, an award was given to the “best” farmer. The prize package included two machetes, a pair of Wellington boots and a preset radio.
Since that time, the prizes have grown more valuable and included bicycles, power tillers, tractors and pick-ups.
Starting in 2002, the winning farmer received a three-bedroom house and that has been the prize in years since.
In the statement issued ahead of this year’s Farmers’ Day celebrations on December 6, 2019, PFAG also congratulated all smallholder farmers, especially those who will be awarded prizes at the local level.
Ban on rice
PFAG said while it fully supports the government’s ban on the importation of rice by 2022 and other food crops that can be produced in Ghana, it wants the government to remain committed to the plan.
“Adopting Nigeria’s food importation ban concept [immediate ban] will not only help to reduce Ghana’s import bill but create employment opportunities in Ghana and stabilize the cedi.
It would as well as put smiles on the faces of smallholder rice farmers. Concrete measures need, therefore, to be put in place to commence a ban on imports such as a reduction in 2020 rice imports,” the statement said.
Read the full PFAG release below.
Press Release by Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana on the 35th Farmers Day Celebration
Date: 4th December, 2019
Message of Solidarity to Smallholder Farmers in Ghana
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) on the occasion of the 35th Farmers’ Day Celebration wishes to once more commend the government of Ghana for setting aside a day to appreciate the contribution of farmers to the growth and development of the country.
As the nation celebrates its 35th edition of farmers’ day under the theme: “Enhancing Small Scale Agriculture towards Agribusiness Development”, PFAG congratulates all smallholder farmers especially those who will be awarded prices at the local level.
Unfortunately, however, critical issues on the eve of this celebration have taken the spirit off the year’s theme. Smallholder rice farmers who are keen in agribusiness are apprehensive and despondent as the rice they produced during the last crop season lies waste and possibly to the vagaries of harmattan bush fires.
Farmers are confronted with a lack of access to combine harvesters, lack of storage and exploitation by traders who have taken advantage of the desperate situation. The National Food Buffer Stock is on record in November 2019 to have publicly announced plans to mop up the surplus rice by providing minimum guarantee prices to farmers which never materialized leaving the rice farmers to their fate.
It is worrying and would be ridiculous to members of PFAG who represent a majority of smallholder farmers in Ghana to observe the nations’ holidaying and rejoicing in celebrating of farmers when most of PFAG members are suffering from post-harvest losses and lack of market. For PFAG, “there is nothing to celebrate when some members are still counting on their losses”
Ghanaian farmers have proven their ability to produce enough rice to meet domestic consumption. This is manifested by the drastic increase in rice production in 2019 of which greater quantities still remain unharvested due to lack of harvesting equipment and guaranteed market. Unfortunately, only 34 per cent of Ghanaians consume Ghana rice while 680, 000 tonnes of rice costing $500 million is imported annually.
The PFAG believes that the high appetite for imported rice has significantly contributed to rice millers lacking market for Ghana rice leading to the current rice glut in Northern Ghana. This phenomenon if not addressed with the urgency it deserves, could worsen the poverty situation of smallholder farmers and a majority of rural people who still rank as the poorest in the country and thereby negatively impacting on the successes the nation chalked in recent times on the campaign against poverty and food insecurity.
PFAG RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT
1. While PFAG fully supports the pronouncement by government to ban the importation of rice by 2022 and other food crops that can be produced in Ghana, PFAG calls for a show of commitment of the pronouncement by stringent concrete steps to be put in place as PFAG would rather wish for an immediate ban and not wait until 2022. Adopting Nigeria’s food importation ban concept will not only help to reduce Ghana’s import bill but create employment opportunities in Ghana and stabilize the cedi would as well as put smiles on the faces of smallholder rice farmers. Concrete measures need, therefore, to be put in place to commence a ban on imports such as the reduction in 2020 rice imports.
2. Institutional purchase of local rice by all government institutions such as the school feeding programme, free SHS, the military and para institutions.
3. Government should mandate all banks to increase their loan portfolio with low-interest rate on agriculture. There should be flexible procedures for smallholder farmers to be able to access these loans.
4 .Increase budget allocation and subsidies for combine harvesters, rice mills and rice packaging materials.
5 .Explore new technologies to address aflatoxin and other post-harvest challenges in rice production.
6 .Bring storage facilities closer to rice farming areas by first completing the One District One Warehouse programme, commission the completed ones and set up temporary cocoons in the communities.
7 .Ensure timely release and distribution of good quality fertilizer and seeds to rice farmers as well as ensuring that, stringent measures are taken to curb smuggling of same.
Finally, PFAG thanks His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for his commitment to developing Ghana through agricultural modernization by introducing the “Planting for Food and Jobs” which supports farmers with fertilizer and seeds and reduce the burden on access to inputs. PFAG is highly optimistic that the above concerns raised would be given the urgent attention they deserve.
Long live Ghana, long live the peasant farmer who continues to toil to put food on the table of Ghanaians.
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), is an apex membership base and Non-partisan organization in Ghana with the mandate to advocate for pro-poor agriculture and trade policies that affect the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
For any clarification, contact the following numbers:
Signed by: Abdul- Rahman Mohammed (National President and Board Chairman of PFAG)
CC: The Minister, MoFA
The Crops Director, MoFA