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Navrongo Tomato Farmers Barricade Road

2007-03-02 11:21:24
This article has been read 736 times.

The intervention of the Upper East Regional Security Council (REGSEC) chaired by the Deputy Regional Minister, Alhaji Awudu Yirimeah, last Monday averted what would have been a bloody clash between tomato farmers in Navrongo and a group from Paga referred to as "leading boys" over the purchase of tomatoes in neighbouring Burkina Faso by market queens from Accra.

Armed with cudgels, cutlasses and other weapons, the Paga group marched towards Navrongo to confront local tomato farmers who had blocked the main road, refusing southern-bound tomato trucks returning from Burkina Faso passage.

The local farmers did not understand why the market women from southern Ghana should by-pass them and cross the border to buy tomatoes in Burkina Faso at 110,000 cfa per crate.

Their produce sells at a cheaper cost of 80,000 cedis per crate. The road blockade was therefore meant to compel the market queens and their truck drivers to stop in the Navrongo area and buy the locally produced tomatoes.

The farmers had earlier deflated the tires of two loaded trucks that attempted to pass through Navrongo.

Concerned about the safety of their vehicles, about 25 other truck drivers who had already gone to load tomatoes in Burkina Faso remained at a police checkpoint near Paga.

The "leading boys" at Paga are a group of unemployed men who earn their livelihood from escorting the trucks into Burkina Faso and assist in loading tomato crates into the trucks for a fee. The arrival of the Deputy Regional Minister, the District Chief Executive for Kassena-Nankana, Mr. Emmanuel Chegeweh, and members of REGSEC helped to diffuse the crisis.

Having gone on to Paga to halt the advancing attackers, Alhaji Yirimeah and the team of officials went back to Navrongo where they held a meeting with the tomato farmers.

They gave them the assurance that the Regional Co-ordinating Council was initiating moves to resolve the problem of tomato marketing in the region.

Alhaji Yirimeah conceded that the problem would not have cropped up at all if the Pwalugu Tomato Factory was in a position to absorb tomatoes produced in the region.

Inadequate power to the factory had resulted in low capacity operation.

He said the project to extend electricity from the national power grid in Bolgatanga to the Pwalugu factory had been awarded to a contractor and that work would be completed in about two months. "As a temporary measure, the factory has to operate on a diesel generator which is rather expensive. I have been in touch with the Ministry of Trade in Accra and it is prepared to assist the factory with the diesel cost so that more of the locally produced tomato can be absorbed," he said.

The Deputy Minister said the problem of marketing facing tomato growers was only for a while and that once power supply was restored to the factory on a permanent basis, residents of the area would be encouraged to cultivate tomato on a large scale to feed the factory. "As a government we are even more eager to see this happen because it would offer jobs to the unemployed and stem the rate of migration of our youth to the south."

The local tomato farmers in Navrongo later removed their blockades from the main road, making it possible for more than 25 trucks hauling tomatoes from Burkina Faso to continue their journey to Accra.


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