We Can Feed Pwalugu Tomato Factory
2006-10-17 21:12:31This article has been read 919 times.TOMATO farmers in the Upper East Region have vehemently refuted the assumption that they lacked the capacity to feed the revamped Pwalugu Tomato factory.
The aggrieved farmers said this at a press conference organized by the Tomato and Rice Farmers Network of Upper East Region in collaboration with the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition, in reaction to a publication in the Business and Financial Times of Wednesday September 27, 2006 edition themed ‘No tomato for Pwalugu factory’.
The Spokesperson of the Network, Mr. Abdulai Asuah, described as “unfounded” statements reportedly made by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Private Sector Development and President’s Special Initiative, Mr. Alan Kyeremanten, in the publication that farmers in the area contracted to supply the factory with 300tonnes of tomatoes to do a test-run of the plant were unable to meet the demand, thereby leading to the conclusion that the farmers lacked the capacity to produce the required quantity.
“We want to state in plain language that as we speak now, we do not know the type of seed specimen that is appropriate for the plant,” Mr. Asuah said. “All efforts made by our executives and by Trade Aid Integrated, a local NGO, to get the necessary information about the factory’s operations failed.”
He recalled that at a public forum organized by Trade Aid Integrated where farmers took the opportunity to call on government and management of the factory to come out with details on the reopening of the Pwalugu Tomato factory, which was published in the media, came to no avail.
According to Mr. Asuah, upon realizing no response was forthcoming from the government, “the group met the Regional Coordinating Council’s Acting Director, who honestly said he had no knowledge about how the factory would run.
“Our struggle to get the information did not end there; we visited the factory to see things for ourselves. In fact, the caretakers could not provide us with any information apart from saying every detail was with the long-absent agronomist.
“We therefore wish to reiterate our position that we have been accused wrongly,” he stated. Mr. Asuah further explained that the region utilizes 3,000 hectares of land with yields of 10 metric tonnes per hectare and a production level of about 30,000 metric tonnes per annum, excluding the wet season and not counting smaller dam farming.
Major producing areas are Bolgatanga, Builsa, Kassena-Nankana and Bongo districts, while some of the farmers were located at the Tono and Vea dams, which have 500 and 300 hectares of land respectively.
Others farm on riverbanks like the White Volta (Pwalugu area). There are over 6,000 tomato farmers in the region, with several area-based groups forming the Network.
On the issue of lack of capacity to produce the quantity required to feed the plant, Mr. Asuah stated that if the 3,000 hectares were well utilized to provide ready market for the produce, the number of potential farmers would even increase and those already in the tomato farming business would also double their capabilities.
The farmers welcomed the recommendation by the Minister to organize themselves and cultivate a single tomato farm to increase production.
They however described it as practically impossible since all the 3,000 farmers could not come together to cultivate a single giant-sized farm.
“Nevertheless, farmers in the region have since been farming in groups.” They called on all the stakeholders concerned, the government, management of the factory and the Regional Coordinating Council to collaborate with the farmers effectively to ensure a mutual relationship for the good of all.
The network also called on ECOWAS and the government of Ghana to reject the Economic Partnership Agreement in its current form and seek adequate protection of the regional as well as national interests in any future negotiations.