Bolgatanga, Sept 13, GNA - Tomato farmers in the Upper East Region, at the weekend, partly attributed recent low yields of the crop to the poor quality of seed they used. They said while some of them depended on imported seeds from Italy and Burkina Faso, that usually does not bear expiry date while others used seeds from their own produce which is not good enough.
The farmers said this in Bolgatanga when they discussed the various problems they face at a one-day workshop on the tomato industry in Northern Ghana, organised by Rural Media Network (RUMNET), an NGO based in Tamale. "When it comes to seed, we gamble because it I difficult to tell which is good and which is not, and there is no law or an agreement on any specific variety that should be used", they said. They explained that poor quality seed results in low germination rate and the wrong variety gives tomatoes that are too soft and rot easily and thereby does not fetch good market.
The farmers appealed to Agricultural Research Institutions to undertake studies on tomato varieties that have high yields, disease resistant and are best suited to the climate of the area.
Mr Alhassan Imoru of RUMNET, who undertook a study on tomato production in the region, said there were over 6,000 tomato farmers cultivating 3,000 hectares of land that should, under favourable conditions, yield an average of 30,000 metric tonnes per year. He said the problem of marketing the crop was compounded by the main buyers, the "Market Queens", who preferred the products of Burkina Faso because they claim the tomatoes from the Upper East Region were not durable and also unattractive. This, he said, contributed to the yearly glut of tomatoes during the peak of the harvesting period and created heavy losses to the farmers.
Mr. Stanley Alukudongo, the 1996 National Best Farmer who participated in the workshop, said the problems of disease, poor seeds, marketing and lack of credit facilities were pushing some of the farmers out of business. He said young farmers who run into debt get discouraged and migrate to the cities to search for other alternatives of making a living.