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UPDATE 1-Ghana says 2012/2013 fertiliser subsidy unchanged
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ACCRA, June 4 (Reuters) - Ghana will maintain fertiliser subsidy levels for all its crops for the 2012/2013 growing season, senior government officials said on Monday after speculation by some on markets that cocoa subsidies might be cut due to low world prices.
Agriculture Minister Kwesi Ahwoi said non-cocoa subsidies would be maintained at current levels even though the government will have to pay over 50 percent more to fund the programme due to rising costs.
Kwabena Asante Poku, deputy chief executive in charge of operations at regulator Cocobod, rejected talk of any reduction in subsidies in the world's No. 2 grower.
"That cannot be true," he told Reuters.
Poku said subsidies currently covered about 50 percent of fertiliser costs for cocoa farmers but he did not give details on how much it was costing the government.
Ghana is in an election year and under pressure to keep spending under control to ensure inflation and deficit targets are met.
Ahwoi said the government will subsidise 176,000 tonnes of fertiliser for non-cocoa crops, the same as for the 2011/12 season, but the cost will be 124.8 million cedis ($66.4 million), up from 79 million cedis.
Part of the spending will go on 151,000 tonnes of certified seeds meant to improve the quality and productivity of crops, including maize, rice and soya beans.
However, Ahwoi said farmers should prepare for the as yet unspecified day when the government is forced to cut subsidies.
"Let me say that government cannot subsidize farm inputs forever so farmers should embrace and adopt all the good agricultural practices being disseminated to them by our technical people ..," he said.
Awhoi said that the subsidies - which will cover crops including cotton, rice and maize - take effect immediately and would give farmers a saving of over 43 percent per bag of fertiliser. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Anthony Barker)
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