Regional News of Saturday, 27 October 2007

Source: GNA

Tuobodom Tomato Farmers Look forward to the Ban

Tuobodom (B/A), Oct. 27, GNA - Tomato farmers in Tuobodom say they are looking forward to government to implement its planned ban on the importation of tomato concentrate, which is expected to come into effect on November 1, this year.

Although the government's decision to place the ban is being challenged by some importers, the farmers believe it was an opportunity for government to rethink its policies towards processing of the produce to save farmers the harrowing experiences they go through in marketing their produce.

A cross-section of farmers interviewed by the Ghana News Agency at the second National Farmers Durbar organized by the Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition, a nationwide advocacy organization, striving for agriculture and trade justice, expressed the view that the government move, when backed by appropriate support for local producers could enhance their capacity to meet local demand.

"It is time government adopts deliberate and proactive policy to move towards processing of the produce in order to give Tomato farmers the necessary push just as was being done for cocoa farmers," says Nana Mensah a farmer, who drew attention to the hardship farmers go through in marketing their produce, especially during peak season. Data indicate that tomato paste imports stagnated during most of the 1990s, but started to rise from 1998. Imports increased from 3 300 tonnes in 1998 to 24 740 tonnes in 2003, an increase of 650 per cent. However, the market share of local tomatoes has fallen from 92 percent to 57 percent during the same period. In absolute terms growth in local fresh tomato production fell from 215,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes during the period under review. Due to lack of marketing and processing opportunities, it is estimated that about half of the annual production by the local farmers go waste.

"We have suffered for a very long time. This is the period for government to plan towards the revival of the tomato production. We continue to be cheated each season on two fronts through the offer of lower prices and the use of big crates by the traders who come to buy our produce." A crate of tomatoes could sell as low as 20,000 cedis during the bumper harvest and go for about 300,000 cedis in the lean season. Farmers said during the bumper harvest, they had no options than to sell to the traders at the low prices they offered. "You either sell or see the fruits of your labour perish on the farms," Nana Mensah explained. Nana Mensah said because the farmers had no means of preserving the fresh tomato, they usually fall prey to the traders, who sometimes threatened boycott of buying their produce. "We believe the only way is to upscale the processing of tomatoes and other farm produce to give farmers value for their efforts and avoid traders taking advantage of them," Nana Ameyaw-Manu, Managing Director, Nana Ameyaw, Cashew Company told the GNA. Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, Coordinator of GTLC, said despite the odds, food crop farmers had been able to feed the nation every year. "The resilience shown by the Ghanaian farmer has proven their ability to be competitive when given the right support and protection. The conditions for the implementation of these policies exist," he said. Mr Akalbila insisted that the best way for government to guarantee the livelihood of all farmers was to formulate and implement policies that guarantee the livelihood of small-scale farmers, instead of rewarding some few farmers on National Farmers day. While admitting that government alone could not solve the problems of farmers, he said the onus still rested on government to ensure that the environment within which the farmers operated was not detrimental to their development.

According to Mr. Akalbila it was just not enough for government to make policy pronouncements, but to also ensure effective implementation of those policy initiatives. This year's national durbar was marked on the theme: "Protective and Supportive Policy Implementation: The Best Way to award farmers." Mr Mohammed Nashiru Adams, President of the Ghana Peasant Farmers Association, said it was important farmers remained united and keep government on its toes to enact and apply policies that work for the farmers.

The Farmers Week celebration was instituted last year to be marked annually to draw attention to factors militating against peasant farmers and to impress on government to institute a better reward system for small scale farmers. 27 Oct. 07