Trade data from the Ghana Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association (Ghana Vegetables) indicate that annual tomato import from neighbouring Burkina Faso has hit a staggering US$400million from an estimated US$99.5million in 2018.
Whereas the Ghana Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL) has confirmed that the country currently imports 90 percent of its fresh tomato from Burkina Faso, it also added that the current national consumption demand of tomato is in excess of 800,000 metric tonnes per annum.
The president of Ghana Vegetables, Dr. Felix Kamassah, however attributed the rising imports and slump in local production to cost of fertilizer and quality seeds, and the lack of mechanisation and machinery.
“Our farmers grow the Burkina variety in Ghana, but the difference is sustainability and irrigation by mechanisation which is lacking here,” Dr. Kamassah said.
Ghana Vegetables, he indicated, is focusing on saving at least half of the amount internally by boosting production and increasing supply up to, at least, 40 percent.
More than 70 percent of tomato supply in major supermarkets and malls in Ghana are sourced from the Netherlands, Burkina Faso and other countries, data from Ghana Vegetables have shown.
Request to gov’t
The Association wants government to support research institutions in seed development to grow seedlings in a greenhouse environments to enable year-round nursery.
It requested that mechanised irrigation, inputs and access to capital be prioritised in fruit and vegetable cultivation to combat changing trends in the current erratic climate occurrences, as well as governmental support and policies to lure the youth into vegetable farming.
“The PFJ policy must devote a chunk of resources to vegetable cultivation. That is the only way to increase support to farmers in the sector and whip up interest. We want the Food and Agriculture Minister to engage the horticulture industry on the way forward,” he said.
Recent climatic conditions in Europe have been increasing demand of tomato, as lack of sunshine, and heavy rains in some parts of that continent are creating unfavourable conditions for the fruit’s cultivation.
But Dr. Kamassah indicated this is the time for government to support local producers to meet rising demands in the European market.
Setbacks in tomato production
GIRSAL has identified that the slump in local tomato production is attributed to most farmers cultivating less than 10 metric tonnes per hectare against the potential of 20 metric tonnes per hectare.
Besides, poor agronomic practices, lack of varieties for commercial agro processing, as well as farmers still planting local varieties – typically with high water content, many seeds, poor colour, and low brix level – have all been identified as key production setbacks.