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Business News of Thursday, 5 May 2016

Source: thefinderonline.com

Big boost for fruit farmers soon

THE annual ritual of fruits going waste on farmlands in Ghana will soon be a thing of the past following the establishment of fruit drying companies in parts of the country.

It is estimated that about a third of farm produce in Ghana go waste due to lack or poor storage facilities and other post-harvest issues.

It is for this reason that many have called for value addition especially in the fruit sector. Companies like Blue Skies, HPW Fresh & Dry, Peelco, and Pinora all sprung up in the wake of this call.

These companies make fruit juices from the produce while others export the raw fruit abroad especially to Europe. However, the recent unpredictability in the sector subjected some to resort to the production of dryfruits for export. Notable among these companies is the Swiss company, HPW Fresh & Dry Limited.

The company has been active in Ghana for the past 15 years, exporting fresh fruits to Europe but started the fruit drying business in 2011 and has since become a leader in the field of dry fruit production focusing more on pineapple, mango and coconut.

It currently processes over 9,500 tonnes of fresh fruit into dried fruit. Currently, the company is working together with over 400 small to large holder farms in the Adeiso area of the Eastern Region.

The company currently provides employment to some 550 persons including both farmers and those who work in the processing plants.

The farmers around Adeisoand many other fruit growing communities around Nsawam expressed their gratitude for having such a firm close by to take up their produce.

According to some of the farmers, there is a huge demand for their produce now because the processing companies have widened their use for the fruit they (farmers) produce.

“We are assured of ready market for our fruits nowadays. Blue Skies is ever ready to buy the fruits to make juice and HPW also buys them [fruit] to make dried fruit,” Mr John Asiamah, a pineapple farmer said.

Beside dried fruits, HPW Fresh & Dry produces fruit bars and fruit leather.

This new trend, for many of the farmers, brings back their confidence. Local processors have recently looked at neighbouring countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin, with some going as far as Brazil to secure fruits to feed their factories.

The reasons have been the lack of financing for farmers to cultivate enough to feed these industries; low quality inputs, especially pineapple suckers; and also a shift to a new variety now preferred in Europe, the MD2, developed by Costa Rica.

An acre of pineapple farm requires between GH¢8,000 and GH¢9,000 to cultivate. This has put the thousands of farmers out of the farm, even though there is huge market for fresh pineapples and other horticultural produce locally and internationally.

Currently, the country’s pineapple exporters, export quantity of the fruit as well as employment by the sector have slumpedsignificantly.

“Ghana’s fruit industry consists of a huge amount of small farmers often with a weak set-up and very few large and professional fruit growers and exporters,” Mr MaikBlaser, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HPW Fresh & Dry said.

He said it is for this reason that his company has now included in its core business to train and build the capacity of small holder farmers on the best practices and to provide them with fast-growing seedlings and other inputs to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

The response has so far been positive with fruit supply gradually picking up in the Adeiso catchment area.

As a result, HPW Fresh & Dry has recently expanded its business with the opening of a new production site to increase its production capacity within the fruit growing hub.

The 3,000 metre-square facility is exclusively dedicated to the production of dried mango, pineapple and coconut mainly for export to the European market.

With the opening of the new production site, HPW Fresh & Dry can more than double its existing production capacity and is set to increase staff to 950 persons during the peak season.

Speaking at the commissioning of the new site, Mr MaikBlaser said the opening of the production site is a very important step in the development of HPW Fresh & Dry Ltd.

“The quality of our healthy products and our sales numbers justify this new investment and we are happy to have created an additional 450 jobs in the rural community of Adeiso,” Mr Blaser noted.

He said HPW Fresh & Dry believes in its employees, farmers and the common future of its stakeholders in this niche market.The company has invested more than €2.9 million in the new facility.

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