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29.03.2007 General News

New tomato facilities bring fresh hope for U/E farmers


The long-suffering experience of tomato growers in Pwalugu and its environs in the Upper East Region appears to have finally come to an end.

This is as a result of the official commissioning of the Northern Star Tomato Factory at Pwalugu by Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and PSI.

The facility was formerly called Pwalugu Tomato Factory and operated primarily as a state-owned enterprise.

The challenge now is the energy required to run the factory, which currently operates with a generator and is costing the new company dearly in terms of diesel.

Under the new facility, the factory has the capacity to produce 500 metric tons of tomato paste, which is equivalent to 25 articulator truck loads.

Trusty Foods Limited, an Italian private company at Tema, supported the acquisition and installation of the machinery at the factory in partnership with the Ministry.

The Minister disclosed that under the sales and purchase agreement, Trusty Foods, a market leader in the production of canned tomato paste, will have to buy output from Northern Star Tomato Company for final processing for sale locally and for export.

"As part of the partnership arrangement with Trusty Foods Limited, new seed varieties and agronomic extension services would be provided to the Farmer

Based Organisations in the selected districts, to enhance their productivity," the Minister said.

According to the Minister, the refurbished factory will no longer be operated as a state enterprise but will function as a commercially viable private venture, jointly owned by private sector operators, local communities, and the district assemblies.

Government will, however, continue to play a facilitating role to enhance the competitiveness of the company, though it has no financial stake in the company.

The revamping of Pwalugu Factory is part of a new government policy direction to expand the industrial base in the country, create a competitive export-led or domestic market oriented production platform, generate new employment opportunities and reduce the level of poverty amongst the poor vulnerable group.

Again the policy dimension of the reactivation of the factory is part of the District Industrialisation Programme.

Mr Kyerematen noted that the commissioning of the factory marks a new chapter in economic development, because the people could earn income and as well stimulate a new agro-industrial revolution in the Upper East Region.

Pwalugu Tomato Factory started production in 1968 but was closed down in 1990 due to operational and financial difficulties.

Few weeks ago, it was reported that at least four tomato farmers had committed suicide because they could not get a ready market for their produce.

Boniface Agambilla, Upper East Regional Minister, denied the story in an interview with The Statesman stating that the people who died were not known to be tomato growers.

Ahmed Bogobiri, a leading tomato farmer, expressed tears of joy for the revamping of the factory and commended the NPP government for coming to their aid to actually alleviate poverty in the area.

On behalf of farmers, he requested that super yielding seeds should be provided to them since those which they have been growing for nearly 30 thirty years are outmoded.

He said tomato growers are now happy because their produce are bought and paid for by the Northern Star Tomato Factory without delay, unlike when the market queens, who act as middlemen, delay in payment.

Mr Bogobiri appealed to the government to make tomato part of the President's Special Initiatives, and also to ensure that the factory is given maximum electricity supply.

Kwame Bonsu, Managing, Director of the NSTC, said that for the tomato growers who were deprived of cultivating the crop, their nightmare is now over.

According to him, three successful trials of production using the new equipment have been carried out, and he expressed the hope that the future looks bright for the company.

He expressed the urgent need to link the factory up to the national grid adding, "when this support is given the company could become a leading tomato paste producer in West Africa."

Source: The Statesman