Fertiliser smuggling ‘booms’ in Upper East
From William N-lanjerborrJalulah,Bolgatanga (pick pic as fertiliser)
Some unpatriotic Ghanaian agents engaged in the distribution and sale of subsidised fertilisers in the Upper East Region are now taking advantage of loose security monitoring and patrols at the borders and numerous unapproved routes into neighbouring countries, to smuggle the commodity in large quantities into Togo and Burkina Faso for huge profits.
In the Bawku Municipality, Garu-Tempane, Bongo, Kassena-Nankana West and Bawku West districts, where the illegal business is booming, most of the agents either smuggle the fertilisers by themselves, or condone and connive with some dealers to transport them to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo, where they double the prices.
Recently, in Bawku, an articulated truck was impounded with 1,200 bags of fertiliser, which were being transported to Togo for sale. The fertilisers were sold, and half of the proceeds given to those who impounded the truck.
Last week, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, hinted of the possible withdrawal of the government’s subsidy on fertiliser due to the increasing reports of smuggling of the commodity.
In order to try to curb the worrying trend in the Upper East Region, the Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Woyongo, on Friday last week, invited municipal and district chief executives, senior security officers, fertiliser agents, the Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency to an emergency meeting in Bolgatanga.
According to the Regional Minister, reports reaching him indicated that in Burkina and Togo, there were mountains of fertilisers in those countries which had been smuggled and dumped there for sale.
The Minister observed that the amount of fertiliser that came into the region was very huge, yet, genuine farmers were lamenting over the shortage of fertiliser in the region. Unfortunately, the “smugglers-turned farmers” rather have access to the fertiliser as they bought and smuggled them across the borders for high profit margins.
According to Mr. Woyongo, in some places, reports indicated that donkeys had been trained by their owners to maneuver their way to the borders with the fertiliser in donkey carts for sale, regretting that the dealers were so money conscious that they were smuggling the fertiliser without regard for the poor farmers.
He noted that most of the farmers were peasants who cannot buy the fertiliser in large quantities, and the agents ought to take note of this and not sell in large quantities to those they suspect were buying in bulk to smuggle to neighbouring countries.
He hinted of possible famine next year, as some Western countries, including America, had started experiencing severe droughts, which was affecting crops, and warned against any negative attempt that would affect crop yields in Ghana.
In the Bawku Municipality alone, it was revealed that there were sixty-seven fertiliser agents, when only five could have served the entire Municipality.
The Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Cletus Achaab, who briefed the meeting on fertiliser and certified seed subsidy programmes in the region, said apart from Urea that the regional quota of 69,960 bags under the fertiliser subsidy programme 2012 was not met, all other types of fertilisers were in excess of 39,775.
Per the distribution by the nine municipal/district assemblies, the Bawku Municipality received the highest number of bags of fertiliser, with 109,600 bags, while Talensi-Nabdam received the least, 5,540 bags.
Mr. Achaab noted that too many fertiliser dealers, the late arrival (between 10:00p.m. and 3:00a.m.) of fertiliser loaded vehicles, and inadequate staffing of all the security agencies along the borders, were some of the factors that facilitated fertiliser smuggling in the region.
It was recommended at the end of the meeting that the activities of fertilizer agents should be streamlined and the number of dealers cut down significantly. This would enable the authorities to be able to monitor and control the few.
They also agreed to get a sole distributor who would bring all the fertiliser to the region and distribute to the dealers for sale to the farmers.
It was also agreed that district directors of agriculture should monitor effectively all the activities of fertiliser agents, so as to be in the position to curb the high incidence of smuggling, while the municipal and district assemblies were also tasked to meet regularly to assess the situation on the ground in order to plug all the loopholes in the distribution and sale of the product in the region.
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