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18.08.2005 Business & Finance

Funds approved for sunflower farmers


Accra, Aug. 18, GNA - An amount of 289 million dollars has been approved by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture under the Farmer Based Organizational Development Fund (FBODF) for Sunflower cultivation. This is because the crop has been found to have numerous uses that could contribute immensely to national growth.

Speaking to the media on Thursday at a day's stakeholders forum on sunflower production and processing at Dodowa within the Dangbe West District, Issa Sulemana, Chief Executive Officer of the Tropical Agricultural Marketing and Consultancy Services Sunflower Ghana(TRAGRIMACS), said in order to promote the crop, sunflower seeds would also be made available to farmers at half their actual cost. The forum, which was to enlighten farmers about the production of sunflower as well and its importance, was organized by TRAGRIMACS in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture(MOFA), and attended by farmers from both within and outside the Dangbe-West District, as well as other stake-holders in the Agricultural Industry. Issa Suleman said one of the main reasons the crop was being promoted was that it could immensely improve upon the poultry industry in Ghana. "Sunflower cake increases the growth rate of poultry since it has a much higher protein content than the other types of feed."

He said by speeding the growth of poultry, the birds could be sold much earlier, which would eventually reduce their price because many more birds could be produced within a shorter period.

Issa Suleman said the demand for sunflower oil had increased because it was the only edible oil with amino acids, which was also cholesterol free.

He said major consumers of sunflower oil were in high need of the oil, adding that by European Union and United States Food and Drugs mandate, companies must use sunflower oil in processing fish flakes for export to their markets due to the zero cholesterol content of the oil.

Issa Suleman said there were about eight major industries that consumed sun flower oil in the country.

Dr.W.Nii Okai Hammond, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture(MOFA), said although the cultivation of the plant in the country failed when it was first attempted about eight years ago, better strategies had been developed as a result of the lessons learnt to ensure its success this time round.

"Thank God that for the past two years the Sunflower initiative has been received with most of the problems that led to the collapse of the initial project being addressed."

He said MOFA's interest in the Sunflower industry is illustrated by the financial support it has given to 18 pilot districts for the formation of Farmer Based Organisations (FBO) to go into Sunflower production. Dr Hammond said over two (2) million dollars of sunflower oil was imported annually, which reflected the level of readiness of a market for the product.

He said proposals for most of the FBOs had been approved for the cultivation of sunflower with the cost of training being borne by MOFA under the FBDOF.

Mr. Peter Kwame Antwi Greater Accra Regional Director of the Department of Crops, urged the Farmers to form cooperatives in order to easily solve their problems as well as ensure that their demands are taken more seriously so far as the re-introduction of the crop is concerned.

"It is much easier to authorize a grant to a well-organized body of individuals than one person who may not keep to his word," he said.

Nene Nagai Kassah VII, Acting President of the Shai Traditional Council, urged farmers to work together to achieve a substantial goal and avoid divisive tendencies.

He said selecting people to occupy positions within cooperatives should be based on their capabilities and proven records, adding that this was one sure means by the which the cooperatives could be successful. The forum was chaired by Mr. Enoch Teye Mensah, Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram Constituency.

Sunflower, native plant of Southern United States and Mexico started being cultivated commercially as an oil seed crop in the Soviet Union. The crop has been introduced to South Africa where it is a major cash crop and is also widely cultivated in East Africa.