TOMATO FARMERS in the Upper East Region have blamed the management of the Northern Star Tomatoes Factory for the closure of the factory.
They maintained that the closure was the result of the factory's management's refusal to reciprocate the confidence, trust and transparent ways the farmers had dealt with them since last year.
According to them, the factory, since its inception last year, had not been fair in its dealings with them, so they also lost confidence and trust its management.
The farmers raised these issues at a press briefing in Bolgatanga to tell their side of the story regarding the current state of the Northern Star Tomatoes Factory.
In their view, the crisis in which the factory currently finds itself is self-inflicted, as the factory initially enjoyed the support and co-operation of the farmers until management started playing tricks with and cheating them.
Market women popularly referred to as Tomato Queens, currently buy the big size crate of tomatoes at prices ranging from GH¢35.00 to GH¢40.00, but the farmers say they were prepared to sell that same crate of tomatoes to the factory at GH¢15.00; an offer which the factory's management had refused, they claimed.
A statement read at the press briefing noted that farmers preferred selling their produce to the factory even at a reduced price just to ensure that the factory was sustained to create jobs for the youth and farmers in the region, but the uncompromising stance of the factory's management had compelled them to continue selling the tomatoes to the Tomato Queens, most of whom came from Accra, Sunyani and Kumasi.
According to the statement, the farmers desired to see the factory operate at its full capacity, because by this way, their produce would always get ready market and they would also be enable to pay back their loans; but the attitude and price policy of the factory's management was deterring them from giving out their produce.
The struggle and misunderstanding between the farmers and the tomato factory was over unacceptably low price from the factory, compared to the price by the Tomato Queens, delay in paying for last year's produce which was bought on credit, cumbersome buying process by the factory and cruel treatment.
These and others, the farmers contended, had led to the untimely death of some of their colleagues who took loans but could not pay back.
The statement said the factory had insisted on paying GH¢11.40 for a crate of tomatoes that the market women were buying at GH¢35.00, despite the farmers' appeal to the factory to buy it at GH¢15.00 to enable them to meet production cost.
The farmers denied ever receiving farm inputs from the factory as being portrayed by sections of the media, adding that though the factory promised to supply them with the inputs, it never materialized, except a few farmers who received tomato seeds from the factory.
They recounted a situation last year where so many farmers abandoned their traditional crops and went for loans to cultivate tomatoes to sell to the factory, upon hearing that the then Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and PSI, Alan Kyeremanteng, had promised that the factory would buy all tomatoes from the region to keep farmers in business.
The factory started paying GH¢15.00 for a crate of tomatoes but reduced it to GH¢12.00 then to GH¢8.00 and finally to GH¢6.00, which the local farmers revolted against; a development which initiated the impasse.
As a way out of the misunderstanding, the farmers suggested that the factory's management should work hard to rebuild farmers' confidence and trust in the factory's dealings with them.
They also called for support in the form of inputs to reduce their cost of production.
From Eric Bawah, Bolgatanga