Vice President John Mahama visited Navrongo near Bolgatanga on Friday afternoon to interact with tomato farmers in the wake of current frustrations over a glut of the commodity this season.
The situation is being exacerbated because tomato buyers from Southern Ghana cross over to Burkina Faso to purchase tomatoes instead of buying from Ghanaian farmers resulting in a price slump. The producer price fell from 120 Ghana Cedis to 20 Ghana Cedis per crate, recently.
The Vice President's visit was to identify with the farmers' situation, and to appeal to them to exercise patience rather than resorting to suicide as an option in dealing with the crisis. Allegedly, two farmers had committed suicide out of frustration.
"Whatever happens, do not kill yourselves," said the Vice President as he persuaded the more than 6oo farmers to adopt a more positive approach to the situation.
He said Government would adopt short-term measures to alleviate their suffering, while it undertook a holistic review to deal with the situation permanently. "We should not come back to hear this again next year, that people are killing themselves."
One of the short-term options the Vice President outlined was the processing of the tomatoes into puree so as to save the farmers the displeasure of losing their investment.
Vice President Mahama said the Government was serious about the development of agriculture in the Region, and laid out its vision to transform the sector. He said the proposed transformation, which would include agro-processing, would lead to a drastic reduction in the incidence of poverty in the area.
The Leader of the farmers, Alhaji Issah Ahmed Bogobiri, commended the Vice President's thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the plight of the tomato farmers, and pleaded with him to help to address the managerial problems facing the Northern Star Tomato Company.
Alhaji Bogobiri also suggested that farmers be allowed to own shares in the company, a proposal the Vice President said would receive Government's positive response.
Vice President Mahama later visited the Tono Irrigation Scheme being managed by the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR). Mr Issah Bukari, Managing Director of ICOUR, told the GNA that about 300 hectares of tomato farms were at the Tono site.
The Vice President paid courtesy calls on Naba Martin Abilba III, Paramount Chief of the Bolgatanga Traditonal Area, and Mr Arthur Belinia Adda, representative of the Paramount Chief of Navrongo.