The President of the National Farmers Award Winners Association, Mr Philip Abayori, has suggested to the government to differentiate between the subsidised fertiliser for farmers and what is sold on the open market.

He said differentiating the product with a unique colour and branding the fertiliser bag with the national colours with a unique name would make for easy identification and help check the abuse associated with the National Fertiliser Subsidy Programme.

Mr Abayori made the call on August 7 at a budget advocacy forum organised by the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ).

The IFEJ budget tracking forum, which was on the theme, ?Tracking the Performance of the 2013 Budget Statement and Expectations for 2014,? touched on various sectors of the economy with regard to their performance relative to the budget, drawing on contributions from ministers of state, the civil society, the media and public sector officials.

It also discussed some issues emerging out of the budget implementation, such as the rising public debts, bloating public sector wages and the cyclical trade and fiscal deficit which continued to derail the economy from its stable growth path.

Mr Abayori said although the fertiliser subsidy was a good intention, it was not achieving the desired purpose because of smuggling and inefficient allocation of the product, explaining that it was easy for unscrupulous persons to carry the product across borders to neighbouring countries because there was nothing to differentiate the subsidised product from what was sold to the general public

?Sometimes, you go to the suppliers and they allow you to buy only a certain quantity as subsidised while they sell another set to you without subsidy. Such abuses can be stemmed if we properly differentiate the product from the ones for the market,? the National Farmers Award Winners Association president said.

His observations confirm findings by a team of financial journalists, which toured parts of the country immediately after the 2013 budget was read to do a baseline survey before the budget implementation. The survey found out there was smuggling of subsidised fertilisers and petroleum products.

A Deputy Director of Budget at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr Daniel Ohemeng-Boateng, who represented the ministry, said his outfit was aware of the abuse in the fertiliser subsidy programme and was taking steps to resolve them.

He said the government moved from the coupon system to the quota system in order to stop the abuse but the new system had not been full-proof for which a new module would be devised.

Already, underfunding of the agriculture sector threatens the survival of the programme. Only 39 per cent of the budget of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was approved. The ministry also received its first quarter allocation only last month, making it difficult to function effectively.

According to Mr Ohemeng-Boateng, the ministry owed suppliers for fertilisers supplied last year under the subsidy programme, particularly because of non-disbursement by the World Bank, which funds the programme.

The abuse in the system has not helped matters either.

Source: Daily Graphic

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