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General News
New tomato factory at Pwalugu 3/30/2007
Pwalugu (U/E), March 29, GNA - Tomato farmers in the Upper East Region say the commissioning of the new tomato factory at Pwalugu is a demonstration of government''s commitment to help alleviate the long suffering farmers had endured, following the closure of the factory some 16 years ago.

A cross-section of the farmers told the Ghana News Agency that with the coming on stream of the factory, their anxieties about marketing of their produce had come to an end and they were encouraged to grow tomato.

"Hitherto, we have had to depend on market queens from Accra to buy the tomato and during the time of glut and in the absence of storage facilities we used to sell in desperation at whatever price they offer," Mr Ahmed Bogobiri, a farmer said.

The factory has been revived under a public-private sector partnership at the cost of five million dollars under a new name Northern Star Tomato Company Limited.

At full operation, the 500-metric ton capacity plant could process about 25 articulated trucks of tomatoes daily into paste in drums for canning at a private Italian company, Trusty Foods Limited, located in Tema.

The operations would guarantee a ready market for tomato producers in the 10 districts of the region and also save tomatoes that otherwise would have gone bad because of lack of storage facilities. Mr Bogobiri said but for the timely intervention of the government, farmers would have sold their produce at less than 60,000 cedis a crate to the market queens, considering the high level of production this year.

The factory is offering a price of 120,000 cedis per crate. A representative of the Tomato Growers Association in the Region, Mr George Alokodongo, said the farmers were ready to expand production to meet the requirements of the factory throughout the year. However, he appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the management of Northern Star Company to assist farmers with improved varieties of tomato seed to enable them to produce high quality tomatoes for the factory.

Commissioning the factory on Tuesday, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President''s Special Initiatives (MOTIPS/PSI), Mr Alan Kyerematen reiterated that the government''s efforts to bring to life these factories was not a return to the old days of state enterprises that were run down.

Rather, the project was being executed under the District Industrialisation Policy that aims to establish at least one factory in each district between districts and private sector operators to create employment and generate wealth.

The Minister explained that the government''s role as a facilitator in getting private sector operator to renew operations stemmed from the fact that the basic infrastructure of the factory was intact. "It is part of Government''s new policy direction to expand the industrial production base in Ghana, create a competitive export-led or domestic market-oriented platform and generate new employment opportunities that would reduce the level of poverty among disadvantaged groups in the country," Mr Kyerematen said.

He hailed the Pwalugu experience as a public/private sector innovation that could be used to salvage other defunct state-owned enterprises on the divestiture list and make them a significant source of employment, particularly in the rural communities.

Under the deal with Trusty Foods Limited, farmers will benefit from supplies of new seed varieties and provision of agronomic extension services to enhance their productivity.

Mr Kyeremanten urged management and staff of Northern Star Tomato Company to live by the tenets of transparency, accountability and sound management practices to move the company forward.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Boniface Gambila, said the factory would provide jobs for over 200 tomato farmers as well as 80 other workers.

This, he said, would turn around the economic fortunes of the farmers, the workers in the factory as well as their dependants. He announced Government''s approval for the rehabilitation of the Tono and Vea dams to promote all year around agricultural activity in the region and expressed the hope that it would help stem the exodus of the youth to the south in search of jobs.

Mr Kwame Bonsu, Managing Director of Northern Star Tomato Company, urged government to speed up the process of connecting the national grid to the factory by June this year to enable the company to run at full capacity.

He said the company was currently operating below capacity because its operations were being run on a diesel generator.Source:

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