There is a shortage of subsidized government fertilizer in the Upper West Region prompting fears that the prices of food in the country could shoot up resulting in famine in the region.

Many smallholder farmers in the region who largely depends on the subsidy fertilizer are now cutting down the number of acreages they had planned to farm this year. 

The only fertilizer available for them is the non-subsidy fertilizer in the open market which is 4 times the price of the subsidized fertilizer.

A bag of subsidized fertilizer goes for GHS48 whilst that of the commercial fertilizer is sold around GHS160.

The government over the last few years has often openly bragged about the success of the planting for food and jobs programme in the country, especially in the Upper West Region.

Farmers in the area since the inception of the programme have fully embraced it and is, therefore, the current leading producer of maize in the country.

The fertilizer subsidy programme which was re-introduced in 2008 was also enhanced under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme thereby increasing not only production but reducing the cost of the fertilizer on the farmer.

With the farming season underway in the region, it appears the enthusiasm with which farmers embraced the programme is waning.

The reason is simple. It is hard to come by fertilizer under the government subsidy programme in the region. The only fertilizer available is the commercial ones sold in the open market at cutthroat prices.

Former Assemblyman for Owlo Electoral area in the Daffiama-Bussie-Issa district, Mathew Braimah is one of many farmers who benefitted from the programme.

He said due to the unavailability of the subsidized fertilizer in the market he has cut down the number of acreages he used to farm the last 4 years.

A smallholder farmer who used to do 60 or 70 acres, this year I am compelled to do 20 acres because we can’t get subsidy fertilizer. A bag of subsidized fertilizer which used to go for GHS45 is now selling GHS70 to GHS60. The non-subsidy fertilizer also goes between GHS100 to GHS160.

He warned that they could be famine in the region if adequate steps are not taken to bring in the commodity.

What you are supposed to use to farm to subsidize for you cannot be gotten.  How then do u do the farming,’’ he quizzed

‘‘Someone will just sit in Accra and calculate the number of people employed and yet the support that you get for you to actually employ people you are not getting. We are actually getting discouraged this year and if we don’t take care, prices of food will skyrocket because we can’t get fertilizer to farm,’’ he added.

A middle-aged mother of six, Leticia Salia lives at Zingu, a farming community located on the outskirts of the Wa municipality. She lost her husband 2 decades ago but has other dependents on her apart from the six children.

She has ploughed, tilled the land, sowed the seeds but she has difficulty getting subsidized fertilizer. 

I was about to farm seven acres, now I want to farm only two acres because of the high cost of fertilizer I can’t farm seven acres. She said it is easier for illegal miners to mine for gold than getting subsidized fertilizer in the region.

 Like other farmers in the region, Leticia Salia has also cut down the number of acreages she intended to farm at the start of the farming season. She has fears that she may not be able to get food to feed her family

Despite the shortage of subsidized fertilizer, there are reports of the sea of subsidized fertilizer carted out of the country to Burkina Faso by unscrupulous input dealers.

In early June, Upper West Regional Minister, Dr Hafiz Bin Salih lamented that over 45 rhino trucks each carrying 300 Bags of subsidized fertilizer valued at GHS1,602,000 were alleged to have been smuggled out of the country to Burkina Faso through the Sissala West district.

As a result of that, the Upper West Regional Secretary Council (REGSEC) has put in stringent measures to stop the smuggling of fertilizer of the country.