…Parliament dialogues for facility’s rehabilitation
The already ailing Pwalugu Tomato Factory (PTF), located in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region of Ghana, finally collapsed due to the deprivation of the needed tomato supply to make it operate at the minimal level, residents of the area told the B&FT.
The factory, according to residents in the area, used to heavily rely on tomato supplies from farmers in neighbouring Burkina Faso, to produce the paste.
The inability of the factory to produce to full capacity and the unprofitability of tomato farming in the area due to low demands as the factory begun failing due to extended closure from the 1990s, has made many of the farmers to turn their attentions to the cultivation of other crops or better still, migrating to the south – for menial works.
A recent working tour by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Poverty Reduction to the district, engaged policymakers and residents on the need to re-venture into large scale tomato production in order to prepare for renewed interests from government to revamp the factory.
Dialogues on the rehabilitation of the factory has begun earnestly to adopt strategies to make the plant a viable venture upon rehabilitation.
With the capacity to produce almost 500,000 metric tonnes of tomato paste per day, the factory is currently closed for many reasons including lack of raw materials, lack of machines for canning the paste among several managerial issues.
After an extended closure of the factory, it recommenced operations in 2006 as Northern Star Tomato Company, though it did not operate at full capacity.
In 2009, the Ministry of Trade and Industry provided funding to pay staff salaries and purchase tomatoes from farmers, with the factory, as at 2011, having the capacity to handle 500 tonnes of raw tomatoes per day. Though it underwent its most recent corporate reorganisation in 2014, the factory remains closed and not operating.
Government, in 2019, advertised for investors to bid to ensure the operation of the factory. An Indian company which promised to assess the state of the factory and take it up could not return. This, the residents said, has made it impossible to dedicate their fullest commitment to venture into tomato production, as the factory, was sourcing inexpensive tomatoes from Burkina Faso in 2011.
But the District Director of Agriculture, Sulemana Matthew, told the B&FT that the area is already endowed with agricultural potentials and that, the farmers only need an assurance of markets and demands to enable them to produce. “The lack of support to develop the potentials has made the district redundant thereby compelling the youth to migrate to the southern sector in search of menial jobs,” he said.
The Parliamentary tour
The three-day trip organized by the African Center for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) with funding from the Hewlett Foundation saw the committee interacting with the assembly officials in Talensi, Nabdam, Builsa South and North, Garu, and Tempane respectively.
The committee after assessing the assemblies and interacting with the officials recommended that continuous effort must be made to increase resources to support the activities of Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and to also improve the capacity of personnel to effectively implement their development plans.
They also urged the assemblies to devise strategies to generate revenue for developmental projects by identifying the potentials within their areas and investing in them.