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Business News of Sunday, 11 September 2011

Source: GNA

Ghana ripe for fresh fruits and vegetable production

Accra, 11 Sept, GNA - Ghana's vast expanse of arable land and favourable weather positions the country as a potential producer and processor of fresh fruits and vegetables on a large scale.

Mr Sunny George Verghese, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olam International, who made the observation, said this must be exploited to consolidate the country's food security.

He was addressing officials and stakeholders of Olam Ghana Limited at a dinner in Accra to mark his two-day visit to Ghana.

Mr Verghese inspected Olam's new facilities, including a biscuit factory and a US$31.5 million wheat mill in Tema, which was nearing completion.

He said the company believed that food insecurity stands out as the most threatening of the four key developmental challenges confronting the world, and only an integrated and concerted approach could avert a full blown crisis of global food shortages, adding that other challenges were the impact of climate change, water security and energy security.

Mr Verghese said while arable lands were being lost to salination, alkalination, soil erosion and other phenomena, the Food and Agriculture Organisation Committee of Experts has warned that the world would need to increase food production by between 70 percent to 100 per cent to meet the rising demand caused by its fast-growing population and a radical shift in the world's dietary habits.

He said: 91'The United Nations has announced that the world's population would be 7 billion in October this year, growing at a rate of 85 million people a year.''

Mr Verghese said this is one of the reasons Olam believe that over the next 15 to 20 years the world would experience a growing imbalance between the supply and demand of food as a result of the sharp rise in its population and this is already showing in the steady elevation of food prices throughout the world''.

He said Olam's global strategy for reinforcing food security, which was currently being adopted in Ghana, was to be selectively integrated into the country's food supply chain so as to be able to navigate through predictable and unpredictable commodity cycles.

Mr Verghese said that through such integration, Olam would build a model, which would be resilient and survive changes in commodity cycles.

Mr. Mahama Ayariga, Deputy Minister for Education, said the government was determined to revive the cotton industry and promote cotton cultivation to a level where cotton would be to the people of the North as cocoa has been for years to the people of the South a cash crop which provides income opportunities for rural farmers while providing the basis for a viable textile industry for the country'.

He said the industry had been in crisis for several years, attracting little or no investment and lacked basic technical expertise prompting government to scout for a serious investor to assist in rejuvenating the sector.

Mr Ayariga said: 'Today, it is my pleasure to announce that, within the short period since government took this step and Olam came on board as an investor, we are receiving reports and testimonies from the North of several thousands of farmers, who otherwise would never have been involved in cotton production now being registered. They have access to farm inputs and are completely pre-financed by Olam''.

He observed that the sector was currently benefiting from considerable investment, which had made cotton farming more attractive and had also led to a major boost in farmer confidence in cotton cultivation.

Mr Ayariga stressed that government had set very stringent and ambitious targets for Olam and it was his hope that the company would continue to work hard to deliver these objectives as well as secure it return on investment.

Olam Ghana Limited is a subsidiary of Olam International and has an 18-year track record in Ghana as a major supply chain manager of agricultural products.

It engages in the export of agricultural commodities including Cocoa, Cashew, Sheanuts and Wood Products.

Olam also imports and distributes rice, sugar, dairy products, tomato paste and edible oil through its extensive countrywide sales network, but the company is probably best known as ranking among the country's leading licensed buying companies for cocoa, sourcing cocoa from a network of over 1000 suppliers and delivering to Ghana Cocoa Board.

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