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11.05.2004 General News

More farmers access improved cassava and sweet potatoes materials

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Kumasi, May 11, GNA - More than 560,000 resource-poor farmers have over the past six years accessed and benefited from the planting materials of the improved varieties of cassava and sweet potatoes developed under the Root and Tuber Improvement Programme (RTIP) in the country.

Five hundred and forty thousand accessed the cassava varieties, while 20,000, the sweet potatoes.

Mr Clement Eledi, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in-charge of Crops, who announced this, said as a result of their access to such improved varieties, beneficiary farmers are now able to increase the average yields of cassava in particular from 12.52 tons to 26.09 tons per hectare.

Mr Eledi was opening a three-day stakeholders workshop on the RTIP organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in Kumasi on Tuesday.

The workshop is to create an avenue for the stakeholders to review activities of the RTIP and plan for moving it into the second phase. Directors of MOFA, researchers, and representatives from farmers groups, financial institutions and the Presidential Special Initiative (PSI), among others are attending it.

He was happy that apart from the successes chalked in the development and improvement of various varieties of planting materials with regards to cassava and sweet potatoes, the RTIP was also making strenuous efforts at developing improved varieties of yam.

"The development of new varieties of yam and cocoyam by the RTIP was at an advance stage of completion and will possibly be released this year to farmers", he added.

The Deputy Minister was, however, not happy about the failure of the RTIP and the marketing system to effectively distribute the roots and tuber products from areas where they are produced in very large quantities to areas of low production.

Mr Eledi observed, "while there is glut of cassava in some districts like Tano, Ejisu and Mampong, it is non-existent in others like Wa and Nadowli".

He therefore challenged the RTIP to devise strategies by which cassava and other tuber related crops produced in large quantities could be equitably distributed to other parts of the country.

Mr Mohammed Manssouri, Ghana Country Programme Manager of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), stressed the need for the RTIP to also lay emphasis on marketing, processing, storage and packaging of root and tuber produce.

He said in so doing, they should not limit themselves to only Ghana but look beyond the country and seek markets outside through export drives.