Benso Oil Palm Plantation Limited (BOPP), has instituted an awards day scheme for its small-holder and out-grower farmers to further enhance healthy relations with farmers in its catchment areas. At its maiden awards day at Benso, the company honoured 24 farmers and the prizes ranged from televisions sets, cutlasses, Wellington boots and certificates. Speaking at the ceremony, Neneyo Mate-Kole, Managing Director of BOPP, said in the past, the outside purchase of fruit/smallholder component was 30 per cent of the company's plantation volumes but it had increased to 50 per cent largely due to the replanting in the nucleus estate. “It is in recognition of this significant contribution that we are holding the farmers awards durbar separately from the annual awards day to honour farmers and workers jointly,” he said. Mr Mate-Kole said purchases of fresh fruits (bunches) from smallholder and out-grower farmers from January to September however decreased from 41,124 tonnes in 2007 to 40,944 tonnes respecting 0.43 per cent decrease. He said the reducing yields in the smallholder have barely been reversed but there was more room for improvement for smallholder trees, which were over 10 years. Mr Mate-Kole said management had remained faithful to outside purchase fruit farmers by purchasing all crops at all seasons. “Our prices and other incentives like extension services have been very competitive,” he said adding that at the beginning of the year the company increased prices of fresh fruit bunches by about 20 per cent at the time when the world market price was above $1,000 per tonne. Mr Mate-Kole said the company had so far spent GH¢175.259 to support farmers to maintain their farms. He said the award scheme also came with a revolving fund to assist farmers but expressed the regret that most of the beneficiary farmers had not paid back their loans. The recovery rate is about 42 per cent. Mr Mate-Kole urged farmers to remain loyal to BOPP by selling their crops to the company only and re-plant Tenera instead of Dura variety, which is not profitable. Mr Joseph Abebrese, chairman of Benso-Adum Benso Smallholder Association, said the smallholder had helped to raise the standard of living of farmers in the area of education, health, housing and access to bank loans, and appealed to BOPP management to improve the scholarship scheme to benefit more farmers' children. Mr Ekow Ansah, chairman of the Out-Grower Farmers Association, expressed gratitude to BOPP for financial assistance and gave the assurance that all loans given to farmers would be repaid after every harvest to sustain the scheme. Mr Edward Tawia Amprofi, Mpohor-Wassa East District Chief Executive, commended BOPP for instituting the scheme and hoped it would motivate farmers to increase their yield.