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22.12.2004 Business & Finance

Ayensu Starch Company is alive - Management

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Bawjiase (C/R), Dec. 22, GNA - The Management of the Ayensu Starch Company (ASCO) on Wednesday denied reports that the company had collapsed, saying the negative allegation was malicious and unfounded. Mr. Osei Owusu-Agyeman, Acting Managing Director of the Company, said contrary to the negative reportage, the company was gearing up for increased production next year when workers would have returned from the Christmas holidays in January.

"The company is signing a firm order with a potential buyer in February, next year. We have agreed on all commercial aspects of the deal, including pricing and mode of transport," he told a team of reporters who visited the factory on Wednesday.

ASCO is the pilot of the Cassava Starch Project under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) for Agri-Business. It costs seven million dollars to build.

Mr Owusu-Agyeman said the bad reportage had created panic among the farmers, whose livelihood depended on the cultivation of cassava for supply to the company and clients from all parts of the world were seeking to do business with it.

He explained that although the factory had been temporarily closed down, the action was to allow for the modification of the product to meet international standards for the food sector.

The modifications, being done at a cost of 250 million cedis, would also enhance the operations of the factory and bring it gradually in line with the International Standards Organisation's certification requirements.

The company with an installed capacity of 20,000 tonnes is to step up its annual production from the current level of 3,000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes to meet the demands of major buyers.

The company had, in one-and-half years of operation, exported 5,000 tonnes of starch valued at about one million dollars.

Mr Owusu-Agyeman said the supply of cassava could only be the major limitation that could affect the expansion programme of the factory, saying, however, that with increased level of cultivation by the farmer,s raw material supply to the factory would not be a problem. "We are also in the process of acquiring lands for block farms to make access and haulage easy from the farms to the factory gate," he said.

Mr Samuel Dodd, National Chairman of the Ayensu Farmers Association said the reported collapse of the factory was not true.

"We sat down with management and discussed the modifications and the temporary close down and we farmers were asked to hold on with our harvesting until January," he said.

Mr Dodd said the only problem was with the haulage of produce from the farms to the factory gate and appealed to the government to come to their aid with trucks.

He said the farmers had decided to increase their annual cultivation to five acres beginning next year and called on government to help farmers lease land for development.

"We are happy selling to the company at the current price of 300,000 cedis per tonne," he added.

The Company was expected to cultivate about 5,000 acres of shareholder farms, 5,000 acres of block farms for women and the youth and a 5,000-acre nucleus farm by the end of next year.

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