The government says it is working to provide solar-powered irrigation facilities during farming in the dry season in a bid to encourage all-year farming.

The government will also convert some of its warehouses in tomato-growing areas into cold rooms to store excesses of tomatoes in growing communities.

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture, George Oduro, these initiatives are geared towards ending the excessive importation of tomatoes from Burkina Faso.

He made the revelations when he visited some tomato-growing communities in the Brong Ahafo Region and interacted with stakeholders.

His visit also follows a Joy News Documentary, Desert Tomatoes, which highlighted the plight of tomato traders as they journey to Burkina Faso in their quest to get fresh tomatoes for the Ghanaian market.

During the visit, Minister and his team engaged the leadership of tomato farmers, traders and transporters in Tuobodom and its enclave.

They also met traders from Afrancho, Akomadan, Takyimentia, Takyiman and Bechem, at Derma all known tomato-growing communities in the region.

At all the meetings, the tomato stakeholders corroborated the challenges to tomato farming as revealed in the Joy News documentary, which includes the need for irrigation facilities, improved seeds and storage facilities.


'Firm' promises

The Deputy Minister said the ministry will start the solar powered irrigation facility by end of December this year.

“These communities where the perishable products are we are going to do storage facilities; where there is river we will give up solar pumps and where there are not we will dig boreholes. For Tuobodom here, the government has approved a processing factory and very soon it will start and all these issues will be handled,” he explained.

The traders recounted that one of the reasons they prefer tomatoes from Burkina Faso is because the local ones have a short shelf life.

But in response, Mr Oduro said there is a solution to that problem.

“We have a variety that the Indian government gave to the Crop Research Institute so the next planting season we are going to add that to the seeds we are giving to them under the Planting for Food and Jobs.”

The documentary also revealed traders go through abuse and some torture at the hands of Burkinabe authorities on their way to and from Burkina Faso.

In response to this concern too, Mr Oduro said the Ghana Ambassador to Burkina Faso has been charged to address the issue with Ouagadougou.

Chairman for the Tomato Traders and Transporters Association, Eric Osei Tuffuor, says the interventions the Minister has promised will help retain the monies they spend in Burkina Faso economy in Ghana.

“The meeting is very necessary because if the government is able to fulfil its promises, it will help us those who buy from Burkina Faso. We go there to do business but sometimes, you get there and you are abused and they extort from you”, he said.

Meanwhile, National Chairman for the Federation of Tomato Growers Association, Baffour Afrifa, has urged the government to ensure the promises are fulfilled to the letter.

 “We often get promises from government but we don’t see anything. So if this government will be able to do what they have said, it will really help the industry.”


Tomato factory

Tons of tomatoes get rotten because there are no factories in the northern part of the country to process them.

The Minister says a factory at Techiman, in the Brong Ahafo Region, is being revamped while the Pwalugu Tomato Factory has also been given to a private person for refurbishment.

He also revealed that there is approval has been given for the construction of a tomato processing factory in Tuobodom as in accordance with the one-district one-factory initiative.