THE PWALUGU PROBLEM
The lack of industries in the regions, especially in the rural areas, has been blamed for the relentless stream of people trooping to the urban areas in search of jobs, creating social problems for both their hometowns and their new communities.
The national dream is that investors would go to the regions so that the youth, especially, would have there, and not have to desert the countryside and swell up the urban migration statistics. This is why news of new investment going outside the main cities is always received with great interest.
One such development in recent times has been the announced rehabilitation of the Pwalugu Tomato Factory, in the Upper East Region. Naturally observers thought that if the factory was to come back to life, that would mean that the fortunes of the local farmers would change for the better.
The assumption was that the factory would need a constant supply of tomatoes and thus local farmers would be recruited to grow its needs, ensuring a convenient and happy arrangement for all concerned.
Sadly, from recent reports, it appears that this is far from the case.
Reports are that tomato farmers in the Upper East have found it necessary to counter a newspaper report attributed to Mr. Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry and Presidential Special Initiatives, suggesting that they are not capable of producing the quantities required by the factory for even its test runs.
The Minster was reportedly expressing concern that the factory was facing production difficulties because it was not getting the right quantities of tomatoes for its smooth operation.
For their part, in a statement, the farmers have expressed their disquiet and concern about the way issues concerning the factory are being handled.
What is even stranger is their statement that they have not been given information about the operations of the factory. This indicates that there have been no discussions with the farmers as to the possible role they could play in the revival of the factory.
Indeed, they point out in their statement that they don't even know the type of tomatoes suitable for the factory's needs!
Most worrying of all, they allege that their efforts to get information about the operations of the factory have been fruitless.
The farmers are however, confident that they have the land and the ability to produce whatever quantities the factory will need.
We believe that Mr. Kyerematen meant well. We interpret his comments as highlighting the need for close collaboration between the factory and the farmers.
However, it is difficult to understand why the farmers have not been involved in the factory's plans, as seems to be the case. Presumably, the suitability of the area, as well as the existing labour, were among the reasons why it was thought feasible to re-open the factory after so many years.
But perhaps there are some background, hidden factors that have not made it possible for collaboration between the factory and the farmers.
Therefore, it seems to us that there is need for an intervention, a bridge, to link the two interests together.
In our view, it would be a good idea for the tomato farmers to seek the assistance of the Regional Minister to help resolve whatever problems there are, so that the Pwalugu Tomato Factory can come back to life and becomes once more the proud boast of the region
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