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Business News of Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Source: GNA

Pineapple production to be given big boost

Awutu-Bawjiase (C/R), Nov. 15, GNA - The Vice- President,

Alhaji Aliu Mahama, on Wednesday announced that compact field houses will be constructed in the southern horticultural belt, including one at Papase in the Awutu-Efutu-Senya district, to primarily benefit farmers engaged in pineapple production.

He said this was essential, as one of the main reasons for the poor quality and short shelf-life of the Ghanaian horticultural produce was the lack of an integrated cold chain.

From the time of harvesting through to the point of loading into a plane or ship, the produce is left to the vagaries o the weather. Without cooling facilities available, exporting by sea will impose considerable challenge and have adverse effects on the quality, market perception and prices of the industry in Europe=94, he said.

Alhaji Mahama, announced this when he launched the Millennium Challenge Account(MCA) Programme for the southern sector of the country, comprising the Central, Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta regions, on behalf of President J.A Kufuor, at the =91Prudent Farms' at Awutu-Bawjiase in the Central region.

The Awutu-Efutu-Senya and Gomoa districts are the two districts benefiting from the programme in the region.

He said the total horticultural exports from Ghana in 2003 reached 98,000 metric tones valued a little over 29 million dollars and that the bulk of the pineapple exports came from the Awutu district.

With an estimated 450 small holder farmers engaged as pineapple out-growers, it is expected that 5,750 direct beneficiaries employment will be assured through increased margins on fresh fruits exported to Europe.

=93This is what we mean by job creation when government says that it will provide employment opportunities for the citizenry who are willing to work=94, he stressed.

He therefore, cautioned pineapple farmers against producing poor quality horticultural products, especially pineapples by inducing their maturity through the aid of chemicals before they are due, since it reduces their competitiveness and possible loss of market share.

The Vice-President also mentioned inadequate rainfall, post-harvest losses and high transportation costs affecting agricultural commerce at sub-regional and regional levels as some of the basic constraints affecting agricultural productivity.

He said to reduce these constraints, the programme will provide retention ponds and small dams where they are required, while post harvest infrastructure including cold storage and processing facilities and the rehabilitation of up to 950 kilometres of rural roads to reduce transportation costs and time to major

domestic and international markets.

He said for the Awutu-Efutu-Senya district, the upgrading of 14 kilometres of the national highway between the Kotoka International Airport and the port of Tema will be an added advantage, while 205 kilometres of feeder roads there will also be rehabilitated and upgraded.

The Vice-President, also touched on measures to enhance

farmers' access to credit and said over 50 commercial and rural

banks and financial NGOs will benefit from access to new funding

and new banking capacity skills, and that it is hoped that eventually,

this would constitute a permanent injection of new capital to

improve seasonal and medium term credits to rural households and

other enterprises engaged in commercial agricultural activities. =93This will therefore eliminate 91shylock' money lenders and other

unorthodox financial intermediaries who reap profits off the seat of

our hardworking farmers and fishing folks=94, he declared. Alhaji Mahama, however, pointed out that the implementation

of the programme in the district 93will suffer=94 if there is no

cooperation between the chiefs and settler farmers with respect to

practices pertaining to the land tenure system prevailing there. He therefore urged all government agencies, ngos, chiefs and

the local communities to embrace the programme in order to create

jobs, wealth and reduce poverty.

The Chairman of the Board of the Millennium Development Authority and the Minister of Public Sector Reform, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, reiterated the nation's goal to become a middle income country with a per capita income of at least 1,000 dollars, and observed that the problem had been how to source significant funds internally and externally in a timely manner to meet this goal.

The MCA programme, he said, brings significant funds to be used to help transform the rural economy, and said it was an opportunity to use the Compact funds together with the nation's own revenues and private sector capital to give a significant push towards the attainment of that goal.

He pointed out that the compact would not have been possible without the vision and efforts of the farmers in the districts,who he said have demonstrated that pineapple, pawpaw, mangoes and other crops when well managed, can get a good market and

attract a good price on the international market. He said it was therefore to help make their efforts more

fruitful that the MCA programme will give existing farmers and new

ones support to train more out-growers to be organized into groups

to cultivate organic mangoes and other crops. He tasked the Central Regional administration, the

Awutu-Efutu district assembly and the Ghana Highway Authority

and the police administration to coordinate efforts to remove

bottlenecks that lead to the traffic jam in the Kasoa area, to

facilitate the quick transportation of farm produce to the ports. He also tasked district chief executives and members of

parliament to ensure that MCA activities are incorporated in their

plans, particularly, the 2007 budget. =93We need written evidence of your confirmation of the

agricultural areas of your districts and what plans you have put

together to support the MCA programme before the end of this

year. If this is done and confirmed in a timely manner, then we can

approve projects that can be implemented in the first quarter of

next year=94, he stressed. =93We want this programme to succeed. We want it to lead to

visible increases in the level of prosperity-take home income of the

people in the districts. This must be the goal of everyone=94, he

declared. The Regional Minister, Nana Ato Arthur, expressed gratitude

to the government for making the two districts in the region

beneficiaries of the MCA programme and pledged that the region

would do everything to justify the trust reposed in it.