The Northern Star Tomato Factory, formerly known as the Pwalugu Tomato Factory, in the Upper East Region has gone through a chequered history of production over the years, leading to the collapse of the factory at one point in time.
The Kufuor administration revamped it in 2006 and when the Mills administration took office in 2009, it decided to inject more life into the factory, with the ultimate aim of wooing a private investor to take over its operations.
The government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, assisted the factory with funds for the purchase of tomatoes from farmers, apart from re-equipping it and paying the salaries of its skeletal staff.
The government’s intervention was greeted with joy by tomato farmers in particular because the revival of the factory assured them of a ready market for their produce and ended a very sad moment in their history when some of them committed suicide because they did not have market for their perishable produce.
This laudable initiative notwithstanding, the Northern Star Tomato Factory does not appear to be out of the woods yet, as it continues to lack the capacity and requisite support to operate effectively and efficiently.
As a result, thousands of tomato farmers in the region still face the perennial problems of lack of market for their produce, unattractive prices and tomato glut, issues that gravely affect their livelihood.
In a communiqué at the end of a recent meeting in Bolgatanga, stakeholders in the tomato industry appealed to the government to adequately resource the Northern Star Tomato Factory to enable it to function more effectively and ensure security for tomato farmers.
The Daily Graphic associates itself with the appeal of the stakeholders and stresses that unless the challenges facing the factory are dealt with, the problems associated with tomato farming and their consequences on the livelihood of tomato farmers will
continue to haunt us as a nation.
It is very unfortunate to allow large quantities of tomatoes to get rotten and put thousands of tomato farmers out of job, while we continue to import volumes of tomato paste from other countries and, in the process, create jobs for tomato farmers and other people in those countries.
The Daily Graphic considers it imperative for the government to ensure that the Northern Star Tomato Factory is given adequate support to enable it to operate more effectively because the optimal operation of the factory will not only assure tomato farmers of a ready market for their produce and keep them in job but also create additional jobs for others working as factory hands.
The revival of the factory will also mean that the money used to import tomato paste could be channelled into other sectors and endeavours that will inure to the benefit of the nation.
We also urge the government to intensify its efforts at securing a private investor to take over the management of the factory and bring the perennial problems associated with the tomato industry to a closure.
It is very important to appreciate the fact that tomato is a perishable crop and so the lack of a ready market for it will seriously hurt farmers in particular and the industry as a whole.
We believe that this is the time for the government to act and it must do so with dispatch.