The Food and Agriculture ministry has said increasing prices of maize is not a sign of shortage in supply following an outcry by poultry farmers.

A Deputy minister George Oduro told Joy News licensed maize buying companies have bought off the staple for poultry and will soon sell it to persons in need of the commodity.

In essence, there is enough maize only it is stocked in warehouse but not on the market, he explained

The explanation was offered after the Poultry Farmers Association made up of some 4000 members lamented over what they say is a rare crisis in maize which they use to prepare feed for their livestock.

'If I don't get maize for my 150,00 birds they will die', the Brong Ahafo regional chairman of the Association told Joy News Thursday. He pointed to a 66% increase in the price of a 50kg bag of maize since April.

They believe the problem can be attributed to the fall armyworm invasion which destroyed farms in 2017.

But the Ministry has contested this claim.

George Oduro maintained government's flagship agricultural programme Planting for Food and Jobs posted great yields for maize.

About 485,000 metric tonnes of maize was harvested in the first year of the programme.

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But the catch is that government licensed about 1,300 produce buyers to buy the produce for the National Buffer Stock company, he explained.

This set off a mad rush for maize buying, denying other buyers in the marketing chain access to maize.

"These people who are buying the maize, they have ready cash…most of these farmers are having their maize in their houses because there is a ready market for it" he said.

In effect, the government may have become a victim of its own success. The deputy minister expressed sympathy towards the poultry farmers.

"I side with them. If they buy at the prices that they are complaining about obviously they will make losses", he said.

The solution, he says, is to speak to the farmers holding on to the maize to release the produce to the market.

This is because the harvest season for maize could soon make maize cheaper.

The Vice-President of the Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana, Napoleon Agyemang Oduro said the minister's explanation is a confirmation of the shortage he has tried to deny.

"The price is high because, we can't find the product in the market and this is a shortage", he said.

"It is becoming extremely difficult to get maize", he said and indicated they are prepared to buy even at high prices if the staple is available.

"The bird is not waiting for you to go and look for maize," he said to drum home the desperate need to buy maize.

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 The poultry farmer said the Food and Agriculture ministry needs to accept responsibility for the shortage because it was advised that this scenario is to be expected.

Napoleon Oduro said in predicting the impact of the fall armyworm on the total yield for maize, the Association advised the ministry to allow maize imports.

This is because whenever a maize shortage hits, livestock farmers are most affected since human consumption of the product is prioritised over livestock.

But the ministry was adamant until it later gave in to a few imports, he said. An adamant ministry and rampaging armyworms have conspired to create a shortage, he observed.

He challenged the deputy minister's claim that maize is abundant in warehouses operated by licensed buyers.

"Wherever maize is, we are holding cash they should just direct us to the various warehouses and we will go get them".

"We will drive their cars there to go and take the whole thing", he said.