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10.09.2004 Business & Finance

Ghana to produce MD2 pineapple suckers

By GNA

Accra, Sept. 10, GNA - Ghana has made a technological breakthrough, in the production of extra sweet variety of pineapples, that has a greater advantage on the international market because of its colour and low acidity.

The technology was the brainchild of a Tissue Culture Laboratory established by Bomart Farms Limited.

It involved the breeding and cultivation of high graded pineapple suckers at a far cheaper rate than the imported ones.

Mr Anthony Botchway, Managing Director of Bomart Farms, told the Ghana News Agency on Friday that the extra sweet variety also known as MD2 was preferable to the "smooth cayenne", "champaca" and "sugar love". The 2004 budget statement touched on observation trials meant to facilitate the production of the extra sweet pineapple, in addition to two other varieties, to increase the national export volume of pineapple.

Statistics on the current export earnings of pineapple hovers around 32 million dollars, a year in the face of revenue stagnation. Mr Botchway said Ghana's comparative advantage in the production of the extra sweet pineapple, stemmed from the excellent climatic conditions.

"The extra sweet pineapple ripens naturally, has a high sugar content and would therefore provide greater opportunity to local out-growers on the international market."

Explaining the genesis of the breakthrough, Mr Botchway said the process began in 2001, when the price of pineapple on the international market started falling due to the low demand for the smooth canyene and other varieties Ghana was exporting.

Up to date the company has been able to produce and supply 700,000 suckers to its clientele while an additional 350,000, are expected in October this year.

The laboratory has the capacity to produce 500,000 suckers each month at the cost of 30 cents of the Euro per sucker, which falls below the current import price of 70 cent of the dollar per unit. The price of a unit of sucker at Bomart farms is equivalent to 36 cents per a dollar.

Mr Botchway said the ability of the Company to produce more suckers would depend on the demand trend since the price per unit could decline if demand for the product increases. So far the company has spent over one million dollars on the project.

Mr Botchway expressed the hope that Ghanaian farmers would patronise the extra sweet pineapple suckers in order to retain Ghana's share on the international market.

He said the Tissue Culture Laboratory has the technology and facilities to propagate any crop including forest trees and flowers.

But Mr Stephen Mintah, General Manager of Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana, called for collaboration between members and the Commission to produce the new variety.

He observed that government's assistance to facilitate the access of farmers' to the MD2 was slow.

In an interview with the GNA, Mr Roland Aggor, scheduled officer in charge of procurement of the MD2, at the Ghana Export Promotion Council, said government released two million dollars for the procurement of the product in February this year.

He said a committee established by the Council, to engage the services of a South African company to conduct scientific investigations to the MD2 before it is introduced to farmers was about to conclude its findings.

The Committee is also mandated to assess whether the production companies had the capacity to supply the suckers in large quantities. The Committee has received preliminary results of the samples it took from local producers including, Tongu Fruits, People's Farms and Bomart Farms.

Members of the committee comprised officers from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiative, Ministry of Private Sector Development, the Pineapple Growers Association and the Institute of Horticulturists and consultants from the Atomic Energy Commission.

Meanwhile, Mrs G.M Timpo, President of the Ghana Institute of Horticulturists, has warned that Ghana risked loosing its share and competitiveness in the marketing of pineapples on the international market if national efforts at supplying the MD2 to smallholder pineapple farmers were not accelerated.

The MD2, which was developed in Costa Rica, has captured about 70 percent of the European market. 10 Sept. 04

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