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16.07.2005 Business & Finance

Where is our ¢500m? -Pineapple farmers

Pineapple production in the Akuapem South District of the Eastern Region is seriously endangered by the failure of some exporters to pay ¢500 million owned to 140 peasant farmers in the district.

Noted for their high production of the fruit for export an d for local consumptions, farmers in the district claim that exporters, numbering 12 brought their fruits for exports but for more than a year now, had refused to pay them.

The companies they claim include Sterling Farms, Burt and Barker farms, Hopp-Inn Enterprise, Ric-Hanson and Company and Phoenix Company Limited.

The rest are Maschaco, Yakito, Gbag Farms, Vosmax Ventures, Kabydan Farms and John Lawrence Farms.

Some of the companies denied any indebtedness to the farmers but the farmers insist that they had documents, indicating each company's indebtedness, adding that the authorities in the district were assisting them with legal aid to claim their money.

The chairman of the umbrella association of the farmers, Fotobi Farmers Union, Mr Asare Oppong, said persistent appeals by the farmers to get the companies to pay had fallen on deaf ears endangering their survival.

The situation he said is making it difficult for them to make ends meet since most of them were peasants who had invested all they had in the cultivation of pineapples.

“ We find it difficult to even pay our children's school fees as everything has come to a standstill. Some of us are now in debt as a result of borrowing to meet our daily needs and to engage in other income generating activities,” he said.

Mr Oppong therefore appealed to government to intervene in the matter since if care was not taken, most of them would go out business.

He said anytime they went to owners of some of the companies to demand payments, they told them that they had not received their returns, while others say they incurred losses from exports.

Mr Oppong said the refusal of the companies to pay them compelled them to write to the district chief executive, Mr Adu Nyarko and the district director of agriculture of the problem.

The DCE confirmed the story and said he had referred them to a lawyer to see how best they could get their money.

The Executive Secretary of the Ghana Exports promotions Council (GEPC), Collins Boateng could however not understand why the farmers decided to go to the press when the matter was a business one which required certain processes to be followed for redress.

“ I'm not going to make any further comments”, he said.

Other sources at the GEPC suggested that the farmers and exporters should have written an agreement on the terms of purchase of the pineapples, so that there would be no problems when it comes to payment.