Food is an essential part of human life that cannot be traded for anything. However, it has become one of the most expensive daily needs for ordinary Ghanaians who are faced with economic hardships despite several projects that have been launched by past and present governments to increase food production and processing thereby, cutting down the cost of importation.
The two prominent projects that were rolled out to increase food production and reduce costs are the Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP) and Planting for Food and Jobs Programme (PFJ). In 2015, the Government of Ghana assured farmers that, they will benefit from fertilizer subsidy it introduced to help improve food production. Although the FSP started in 2008 there were challenges that made the programme not to achieve the anticipated results.
In April 2023, the Minister for Food and Agriculture - Bryan Acheampong indicated that the Government had cancelled FSP. To him, it has cost the nation GHs3 billion in the last six years and the impact was not significant due to the unbridled corruption that marred the intervention. This has and will affect the productivity level of PFJ policy since most rural farmers depend on subsidized fertilizer for farming.
The Planting for Food and Jobs is a flagship agricultural Campaign of the Government, with five (5) implementation modules. The five Modules are: Food Crops (PFJ), Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Greenhouse Technology Villages (3 Villages), Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), Agricultural Mechanization Services (AMSECs). The first module PFJ (Crops) aims to promote food security and immediate availability of selected food crops on the market and also provide jobs.
This module was officially launched by H. E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo at Goaso on April 19, 2017 in the then Brong Ahafo Region. A total budget of GH¢3.3 billion was projected over the four implementation years (2017-2020), starting at GH¢190 million in 2017 but expanding exponentially to GH¢1.6 billion by 2020.
The PFJ initiative has at its core a seed and fertilizer subsidy program, but with ambitions of boosting smallholder agricultural production and creating jobs along agricultural value chains through other complementary interventions.
Beyond raising smallholder productivity, PFJ adopted a clear employment agenda of significant job creation along priority agricultural value chains as an ultimate goal of making farm produce available at affordable prices across the country.
"It has cost the nation GHs3 billion in the last six years and the impact was not significant due to the unbridled corruption that marred the intervention"
The main target crops on the value chain include; maize, rice, sorghum, soya, and vegetables (onion, tomato, and chili pepper. However, in 2018 and 2019, the crop coverage was expanded to include groundnut, cowpea, various root crops, and several additional vegetable crops.
During the 2019 cropping season, the government provided subsidized fertilizer to 92% of the intended 1 million farmers, amounting to a total distribution of 295,590 metric tons.
Additionally, in 2019, a total of 15,876 metric tons of improved seeds were distributed to farmers but the yield in 2020 was abysmal as prices of foods listed under the project were still high.
Official reports suggest that beneficiary numbers - the number of farmers receiving subsidized inputs—consistently exceeded targets. As of 2020, 1.74 million farmers out of an estimated 2.6 million agricultural households were given inputs at taxpayers' cost.
The program also set job creation targets ranging from 863,500 in 2017 to 1,492,000 in 2020. Official reports suggested that the job creation targets were achieved in the first years of PFJ which should translate to the availability of farm produce at cheaper costs.
The basic ingredients such as onions, tomatoes rice among others which were captured under the programme are still being imported Prior to 2019, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) disclosed that the domestic production of rice continues to fall short of demand and more than 50% of Ghanaians depend on imported rice for domestic consumption. The Agriculture Ministry in 2019 was emphatic that there were rigorous measures in place to end rice importation by the end of 2022. The rigorous measures often deemed as more investment over behavioral approach to national interest had often failed to achieve the policy objective.
Surprisingly, as of 2021, there’s rather an increase in the importation of rice and Ghana was ranked the 13th importer of rice which happened to be the 3rd most imported commodity after petroleum products and electrical machinery and equipment in Ghana.
It is evidence to see the dominance of an influx of foreign rice brands on the market which is quite cheaper than the packaged locally-produced rice. Averagely 25 kilograms of packaged local rice is being sold between GHs450 to GHs500 whereas the foreign ones are between GHs370 to GHs450.
Then again, unemployment increased after the implementation of PFJ from “3.37% in 2017 to 3.92% in 2021”, according to World Bank Data 2022. This shows that the programme has not significantly achieved its targeted purpose.
"In 2019, a total of 15,876 metric tons of improved seeds were distributed to farmers but the yield in 2020 was abysmal."
However, Ghanaians have been wondering why the status quo has failed to change after investing so much in farmers through the Planting for Food and Jobs of which rice production was a key focus area.
The massive investment in the PFJ project is not producing the desired growth and sustainability outcomes. Data on the successes of this social intervention and food security project has been very poor as the Ministry for Food and Agriculture is not well equipped for monitoring and evaluation to accurately assess its impacts. The disappointing results of the PFJ call for a collective reflection on the viability and appropriateness of our existing agricultural models.
We must question whether Agricultural Social Interventions have genuinely fulfilled the commitment to ensure food security, alleviate poverty, and combat hunger, malnutrition, and other related challenges? Hence, there is a need to look at how best public investment can be redirected to deliver better income to help in poverty reduction and improve nutrition among others, and job creation.
One cannot dispute the fact that every programme and policy has its challenges. However, it is time for the government to relook at the implementation process of the PFJ and put in place a system for effective monitoring and evaluation processes that ensure the objective of the policy is achieved. Not forgetting the district assemblies must be actively involved at every level of the process and develop behavior that allow for success.
Furthermore, the government must take itself away from agriculture business with obsolete interventions that have crippled the sector. Individuals create the market for their produce and surplus are used as subsistence. What farmers need are the removal of the huge taxes on farm implements to allow farmers to save and buy their own sophisticated tools to enhance commercial farming. This will encourage the youth and the young farmers to reorient and perceive farming as a profession.