Tomato sellers in the country have abandoned tomatoes produced in large volumes across the Brong Ahafo Region in favour of Burkinabe and Ivorian tomatoes, B&FT has learned.
The traders claim locally produced tomatoes are watery, too seedy and above all, have shorter lifespan, hence their preference for exotic varieties.
Farmers in the region do not have access to the required varieties to cultivate, hence the deepening of their woes.
In fact, many tomato famers in places like Derma, Techimantia and Dwomo have started growing other crops such as chili pepper and maize.
This is to help them generate enough income to defray the huge indebtedness that hangs around their necks from the failed tomato business.
A 50-year-old Derma based farmer, Samuel Atuahene, told the B&FT that the unbridled importation of the commodity from neighbouring countries, coupled with the impact of poor rains, is taking a toll on local farmers.
“The effect of climate change is immeasurable; high cost of agrochemicals; elusiveness of improved seeds, poor harvest and lack of ready market are all challenges,” he said.
Alhaji Bamfoe, Chairman of Fetentaa Tomato Farmers Association urged government to find practicable means to curtail the unbridled importation of fresh tomatoes from other West African countries. This, he noted, would help save the huge investments farmers sink into their farms, which they are unable to recoup.
The country annually consumes about 25,000 tonnes of tomato paste, valued at some US$25 million. Annual local production of tomatoes also stands at about 350,000 tonnes; lack of processing facilities has, however, been the bane of the industry.
There are two tomato processing factories in the Brong Ahafo Region–Agri Commercial Services Limited and Techiman Processing Complex (TEPCO)–but none is operational.
Agri Commercial Services Limited at Wenchi was shut down in 2007 and there have been many failed attempts to revive it whilst the Techiman Processing Complex (TEPCO) is yet commence full operation since it was installed in 2006.
The common problem of the two factories has been the lack of suitable tomato variety to process. It has been a daunting task for managers of the two facilities to access the right quality of fresh tomatoes for production.