Estimated one million farmers across the country are to benefit from this year’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto has announced.

Launching the programme in Accra yesterday, he said the figure was nearly five times the number of farmers; 202,000, that benefitted in the maiden edition, two years ago.

He said a total of 320,000 metric tonnes (mt) ofsubsidised fertilizers, made up of 300,000mt inorganic and 20,000mt organic, worth GH¢400million,were expected to be distributed to beneficiaries, this year.

To reduce the smuggling of fertilizers to neighbouring countries,DrAkoto announced plans including the involvement of the Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) personnel in the distribution in Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

The personnel, he said, would liaise with input distributors and retailers to allocate the inputs to sale outlets and retail points under the supervision of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs)

All inputs, according to the minister, would be bagged with PFJ labels, with fertilizers to be sold in the Northern Sector of the country bagged in only 25Kg bags with those for the southern sector in 50kg bags.

Regional Coordinating Councils, MMDCEs would be involved in the submission of waybills of the distribution to the ministry in addition to other measures which according to Dr Akoto would be kept secret.

He called on the security agencies to arrest and prosecute persons caught smuggling inputs and urged the public to divulge information to authorities to aid arrests of such person as the government had spent so much on the subsidy.

To address the age-old challenge of low productivity amongst small holder farmers due to use of blanket fertilizer recommendations, Dr Akotosaid crop specific fertilizer recommendations had been developed.

He said they were developed by consortium of scientists led by Soil Research Institute, for maize, sorghum , rice , soyabean, cassava and vegetables for the Guinea  Savanna and Forest  Transitional Agro-ecological zones of the country.

Cereals and legumes crops such as cowpea, orange flesh potato, plantain and yam, he said had been  added to crops promoted in 2017 and 2018 while enough measures had been put in place to ensure quality of seeds.

On the fall army worm situation that led to the destruction several hectors of farms lands, he said the taskforce charged to tackle the problem had been successful and were on alert to deal with the problem if it emerged again.

The PFJ was introduced in 2017 to reduce farm inputs and boost food production. It created 745,000 jobs that year and 790,000 jobs last year with bumper harvest leading to the export of foodstuffs to neighbouring countries.