The Northern and Upper East Regional Branches of the Seed Producers Association of Ghana, have expressed worry over the delay in releasing Genetically Modified (GM) cowpea seed varieties developed by scientists to farmers for commercial purposes.
A statement read by Mr. Alhassan Amadu, Northern Regional President of the Association, at a press conference in Tamale, said the delay had prevented cowpea farmers from cultivating healthy seeds that would boost productivity and increase crop yield. The statement said, “We wish to state that the main reason for very low crop yield by cowpea farmers is the attacks by insect pests at all growth stages”.
“We as farmers spend heavily on insecticides to enable us to protect our crops from damage by these pests, and apart from that, we also spend on labor as well as other farm management practices, which increase our cost of production”, it noted.
The statement added that “after all these costs we are not able to harvest up to a tonne of cowpea per hectare, hence, making the price of cowpea grains very expensive on the market, compared to cereals and other food crops”.
The statement indicated that farmers were excited to be introduced to a GM cowpea developed by scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), dubbed: “Maruca pod borer”, a variety resistant to pests infestation.
“However, we were disappointed to be told that we cannot have the GM cowpea seed variety with desirable characteristics because the developers have not been permitted by law to release it to farmers”.
The statement further noted that “It is sad to note that although Ghana and Nigeria commenced work on this GM cowpea at about the same time, the leaders of Nigeria and state institutions supported their scientists to quickly release these varieties to their farmers, but the case is different in Ghana”.
The statement, therefore, called on the government and other key stakeholders in the agriculture sector to step up efforts to commercialize the production of Genetically Modified cowpea seed variety in the country.
That, it said would ensure farmers had access to technology-driven seed varieties that would help boost productivity, reduce costs of production and increase crop yield.