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27.03.2009 Business & Finance

Farmers Demand 30% stake in Northern Star Tomato Factory

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh - Ghanaian Chronicle

Farmers in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions have vehemently appealed to the government as a matter of urgency to offload 30% shares of the Northern Star Tomato Factory to them. This, the farmers believe would ensure the smooth and effective running of the company as well as solving the perennial tomato glut in the three regions of the north.

Presenting a petition on trade issues that affect the Ghanaian farmers and fishermen to the Minister of Trade and Industry (MOTI), the President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), Mr. Philip Abayori questioned 'Why it has become difficult for MOTI to implement the policy for which reason the factory was set up by involving the farmers, but rather chose to leave the factory unproductive, to the detriment of the tomato farmers, making government efforts worthless.'

Why do we have to import 7,000 metric tones of tomatoes monthly into Ghana when our farmers have the capacity to produce, he asked. “We also want to solicit government's intervention to make it possible so that the farmers and fishers can access credits and grants through the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) for exportation and also set up small and medium scale agro industries to process their produce to add value to it”, Mr. Abayori appealed.

The farmers urged the government to consider setting up new rules for imports and exports of agricultural products, taking into consideration the survival of the local producers. To this end, the farmers were of the view that MOTI should have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ghanaian farmers and fishermen with special programmes to support them to produce the exact quantities of agricultural raw materials that would feed our local industries and also to reduce imports of those products that the country has competitive and comparative advantage to grow.

All these would go a long way to stabilize the Ghanaian economy and generate employment for the teeming youth, hence alleviating poverty among Ghanaians.

Mr. Abayori, also called on the Ministry to use its good offices to establish temporal storage facilities across the country so that the farmers can store their produces.

Another major issue of concern to the farmers is the excessive importation of some agricultural produce into the country such as rice, vegetable oil, maize and soya beans. This situation is gradually squeezing Ghanaian farmers out of business and the farmers cannot compete fairly with the cheap imported products.

Additionally, these foreign countries are facilitating their produces by giving subsidies, grants and other incentives to their farmers, while the Ghanaian farmers are not being supported adequately to enable them trade fairly. This unfortunate situation is crippling our farmers, though we have the capacity and the fertile land to grow crops.

The farmers were quick to add that they lack adequate warehousing, financial and grading facilities to store and keep their produce in their natural state.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Hannah Tetteh assured the farmers that the government was ready to give them 30% shares of the Northern Star Factory if only they can pay the amount promptly so as to make the company more vibrant.

She disclosed that her Ministry had instructed the Custom, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to ensure that food products, especially tomatoes imported from Burkina Faso meet the safety standards of Ghana.

Ms Tetteh stressed that all the Presidential Special Initiatives (PSIs) implemented by the previous government were to be reviewed to make them sustainable.

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