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Business News of Sunday, 28 August 2005

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Farmers? Interested In Starch Project Wanes

The Ayensu Starch Company, which was established with the glowing expectation of providing income for rural farmers and foreign exchange for the nation, is gradually losing the support of the farmers.

The company being one of the President's Special Initiative Projects, uses the new variety cassava, as the raw material to produce cassava chips for export. Farmers within Bawjiase township and the surrounding villages, were therefore, offered the opportunity to cultivate the crop to feed the industry. However, during a recent visit to the area and subsequent interviews with some of the farmers, it came to light that all is not well with the company. More than 10 major farmers interviewed, complained of the low price the company pays for their produce.

They said, they were not satisfied with the financial arrangement between them and the company and also disclosed that 80 per cent of the farmers within Bawjiase and the surrounding villages are no longer selling their produce to the company. As a result, the company is not receiving the required amount of raw materials for optimum operation. A visit to the plant site suggests the company is not in brisk business. Asked about what they do with their harvested crops, the farmers replied that they sell them to people who process them into gari.

According to the farmers, the amount of money paid by the gari dealers for their produce is more attractive than what is offered by the company. The same quantity of cassava sold to the gari dealers between ?300,000 and ?600,000 is bought by the company for ?150,000 or ?200,000, according to the farmers. When the gari dealers were contacted, they confirmed that they have been offering better prices to the cassava farmers.