UW/R: Farmers lament high cost of labour, likely to increase prices of produce

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As the harvesting of farm produce is earnestly in progress across the Upper West region, some groundnut farmers have bemoaned the high cost of labour for the 2021 farming season and intimated its potential of pushing prices of their produce upwards after harvest.

Farmers in various communities of the Upper West Region could not hide their fears of incurring losses with the increase in the cost of farm labour especially that the heavy rains in the region is making mature groundnut to regerminate before harvest.

According to Chris Danbaa from Tibani, a fariming settlement in the Nadowli/Kaleo District, farm labour has been costly aside getting a tractor to plough an acre for GH¢120.00. He said sowing an acre with groundnut cost GH¢80.00, and this is based on consideration. During this harvesting, he has to engage young men at the cost of GH¢100.00 to help in uprooting the groundnut while those, mostly women, who pluck the nuts take not less GH¢6.00 for a basin of nuts harvested. Some charge GH¢8.00 for larger basins, he said.

On her part, Agaata Lawri, a female farmer, said the challenges confronting groundnut farmers this season are enormous. She also cited the difficulty and high cost in getting tractor to plough the land, the “bad” rainfall pattern and high cost of labour in sowing through to harvesting. She indicated that, the floods this year have destroyed most of the groundnut while some tend to germinate, and a chunk of the few they are able to salvage going to service labour cost.

Cecilia Christopher, another female farmer, corroborating her colleague farmers noted that every menial work on the farm has increased between GH¢1.00 to GH¢3.00. For her, she has taken the option of a barter when it comes to the picking of the nuts, where people are paid with a quantity of the nuts they pluck. This option is still expensive to her as three measuring bowls (“kokolaa”) in quantity are taken for a medium size basin. She said this will reduce the produce greatly, which may make it difficult to break even.

In the Wa Municipality, Seidu Kashir from Jonga stated that farm labour cost is higher this year compared to that of last year. He posited that, “a per day labour for sowing is GH¢12.00 and it takes eight people to sow an acre and weeding in between the groundnuts now goes for GH¢100.00”. Picking of the nuts according to him is dependent on the distance of the farm from home. “Some take as much as GH¢10.00 for plucking a basin (medium size) of groundnut”. The farmer added that, when one is able to transport the uprooted groundnuts to the house for plucking, the labourers take GH¢5.00 or GH¢6.00 depending on once relationship with them and the bargaining skills.

The farmers considering these factors have indicated that the price of groundnut is more likely to increase this year. They said that is necessary in order to help them achieve breakeven or at best reduce their losses. It is their belief that, the rise in the cost of harvesting groundnut is as a result of the urgency farmers have attached to it because of the regermination of the farms caused by the heavy rains this season. This therefore pushed demand for labour high without corresponding supply as other hands are engaged in their own farms.