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Fruit processors seek US$10m bailout

The Fruit Processors and Marketers Association of Ghana has requested for a US$10 million bailout from the government to be able it to boost pineapple farming in the country.

The funds are needed to help the association to venture into large-scale pineapple farming to increase production from the present 33,000 tonnes to 10 million tonnes per annum.

“We need pineapple in excess of five million to 10 million metric tonnes a year, and so to be able to get the quantity of produce needed, our operations need to be mechanised to be able to produce enough to sustain the agro-processing business in the country,” An executive of the association, Mr Edward Yassin Koranteng, made the call when the Agribusiness members of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) called on the sector minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, at the weekend.

Robust measures

Mr Koranteng observed that there were presently a huge slump in production of pineapple, due to the unavailability of financial support for cultivation. Other challenges include high fertiliser cost, low quality inputs, especially pineapple suckers, saying these challenges were gradually taking a serious toll on the operations of fruit processors in the country.

He explained that not only had the situation denied Ghana some foreign exchange, but some fruit processing companies had also collapsed while the surviving ones were struggling to operate. The once vibrant sector which employed many people has laid off workers as a result of the lack of support.

According to him, if robust measures were not taken to increase the production of pineapple to complement the deficit, the industry might totally collapse.

Export capacity

Currently pineapple export from Ghana is limited to about 33,600 metric tonnes per year even though the fruit is one of the leading non-traditional export crops in the counry.

Ghana accounted for about 10 per cent of the international pineapple export in 2004. But this has since shrunk to just three per cent in 2014 with earnings also cut from US$24 million to US$19.2 million within the same period; a situation farmers argue is a consequence of the unattended challenges that have bedeviled the agribusiness sector for several years.

For many farmers, the greatest challenge now facing the county’s pineapple sector is the inability of producers and exporters to increase production, mainly due to lack of financing for expansion as the production inputs and facilities require long-term and reasonably priced capital for investment by growers and exporters

Over the years, governments have responded to the challenges of the farmers by increasing subsidies to the sector, including a free fertiliser and seedling programme, irrigation and mechanised system and other extension services to boost agricultural activities and yield, a move that enticed more youth into farming.

Govt responds

Dr Akoto said the government was aware of the challenges affecting the agricultural sector and would introduce measures to revive the industry.

He noted that the ministry exists to promote sustainable agriculture and ensure thriving agribusiness through research and technology development, effective extension and other support services to farmers, processors and traders for improved livelihood.

“The government vision for the next four years is to modernise agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security and profitability of our farmers, with the aim of significantly increasing agricultural productivity,” he said.

Dr Akoto added that the government intends to pursue a value addition strategy aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing and developing new and stable markets for farm produce.

These, he said, would help transform the ailing sector to produce more for local consumption and for export to earn some foreign exchange to help stabilise the local currency.

Source:  Graphic online.com

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