Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Saturday stressed the need for a feasibility study on the Pwalugu Tomato Factory to enable Government to determine how best it would intervene to keep the factory running all-year-round.
He said he would visit the area again at a future date with the Minister of Food and Agriculture and the Minister of Trade and Industries for a detailed assessment of the facility before any definite decisions could be made.
Vice President Mahama was speaking during a tour of the Northern Star Tomato Factory at Pwalugu, near Bolgatanga, at the end of a three-day official visit to the Upper East Region.
He said the situation where farmers spent huge sums of money in the production of tomatoes only for the produce to go waste because there was no reliable market for them was a matter of great concern to the Government.
As an immediate step towards ensuring stable market for the produce, Vice President Mahama said his office would liaise with the two Ministries to assist the factory with a capital injection to boost tomato production in the area.
The Vice President pledged government's determination to institute prudent measures to encourage tomato production and processing in the Region as part of a long-term plan to create sustainable jobs for the people.
The Farms Operations Manager of Northern Star Tomato Factory, Mr Kwabena Darkwah, who conducted the Vice President round the facility, mentioned the lack of funds as the main problem hindering its full operation.
He added that although farmers in the Region had cultivated huge quantities of tomatoes, which could serve as raw material for the factory for a long time, there was no money to purchase the produce, thereby putting both the factory and the farmers in an unpleasant situation.
The Regional Director of Food and Agriculture, Mr Roy Ayariga said there was at least 10,000 hectares of land that could be put under cultivation at Pwalugu, using water from the White Volta for irrigation. With the availability of water-pumping machines and other logistics, farmers in the area would be capable of producing tomato, maize or onions all-year-round, he added.
Tomato glut in the Upper East Region has been an annual phenomenon because farmers do not have reliable markets for their produce. Ironically, the main buyers known as Market Queens find unorthodox means of constantly exploiting the farmers by delaying the buying of the produce.
In less than a month the price of tomatoes has drastically been reduced from 120 Ghana Cedis per a crate to a little above 10 Ghana Cedis, following the lack of market and unavailable storage facilities for the produce.
Accompanying the Vice President were the Minister of Interior, Mr Cletus Avoka; Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Mark Woyongo and Mr Mahama Ayariga, Spokesperson for President John Evans Atta Mills.