Farmers across the country are struggling to access improved seedlings and farm machinery necessary for the production of crops because of the disruption in the supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Osman Fukuyama, a farmer at Bereku in the Central Region, said farmers in his district and others are “struggling to get access to quality inputs like seeds as the majority of them are imported.”
The 2019 National Best Agroforestry Farmer, Robben Asare, confirmed the shortage of improved imported seedlings and farm machinery.
“All the above [shortage of improved seeds and unavailable farm machinery] are negatively impacting productivity and making farming less productive,” he said.
According to the FAO, the significant slowdown of all economies of the world and especially of the most vulnerable ones, as unemployment rates have risen, and COVID-19’s economic impacts will be felt more and will make countries, especially food import-dependent countries, struggle to have the needed resources to buy food.
In turn, as demand for food will decrease over the next months, prices should go down in 2020, and this will have a negative impact on farmers and the agricultural sector. “Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could affect agricultural production,” the UN agency said.
To support farmers and their organisations in the coming months, the FAO said it is important to “identify collection centres closer to producers, for example, develop storage facilities like warehouse receipt system platforms where farmers can deliver their produce without the need to go to markets.
If possible, allow local markets to remain open, while putting in place strict physical distancing measures within and outside markets. If feasible, relocate markets to larger premises, while ensuring the appropriate infrastructure is in place to maintain quality and food safety.”
Help in sight
To help address the challenge of improved seedlings, various agricultural research institutes are working hard at developing improved and high-yielding seeds locally.
Dr. Mumuni Abdulai, Principal Investigator (Bt Cowpea) at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute, SARI of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SARI-CSIR) in Tamale, said the Institute has developed a new cowpea variety, known as BT cowpea, which is pest-resistant and requires less spraying than the varieties currently available to farmers.
He indicated that Ghana has completed its scientific work on Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Cowpea, after almost a decade of research.
He said that the new cowpea variety, could potentially increase yield by 20 times more and the acceptance of the product, will pave way for the environmental release of the BT Cowpea. Field trials in Ghana show productivity in Bt (1925.0 kg/ha) compared with the non-Bt (94.1 kg/ha).
The final work document contains details of the research work including the gene inserted in the beans to control the Maruca pest, its safety and its non-target effect.
“The dossier of the work will be submitted to the National Biosafety Authority of Ghana,” he added.