Broad Discussion Launched on Future of Sector
Accra—Farmers, traders, and processors are meeting Ghanaian and international academics, donors, and officials here on April 23 for a unique exchange of views on how to revive the strategic but ailing tomato sector.
The workshop, “Transforming Agriculture: The Case of Tomato in Ghana,” is organized by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Participants come from, and will scrutinize, every link in the tomato value chain from plot to plate. They will draw upon extensive research by IFPRI and many stakeholders on key aspects of the industry, including production, processing, marketing, and the role of government and other institutions.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity for all stakeholders along the value chain to share their experiences and learn from each other,” said Shashi Kolavalli, leader of the Ghana Strategy Support Program at IFPRI. “Rather than simply make recommendations to the government or specific actors, we wanted to bring all the major players together, put the facts and analysis from our research on the table, and open the floor for dialogue.”
The talks take place as Ghana strives to boost economic growth and fight poverty and hunger.
“This discussion comes at an ideal time,” noted the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. “Our objective is to increase the incomes of all stakeholders along the tomato value chain. In order for the processing industry to grow, production must increase and post-harvesting losses must be minimized.”
Tomatoes are a critical part of the Ghanaian diet and could play a key role in diversifying the economy and agricultural sector. More than 90,000 farmers grow the crop and 300,000-plus people are involved in its wholesale and retail trade. The sector has failed to reach its potential to improve their livelihoods, however. Yields rise and fall with the rains and remain low compared to other countries. Processing factories struggle to survive because tomatoes of the right quality and quantity for commercial agro-processing are not being grown. Some farmers, unable to sell their harvest, leave it to rot in the fields even as others, having managed to raise yields and profits, choose to grow tomatoes over other crops.
Numerous factors contribute to these divergent experiences, from the availability of irrigation to the choice of tomato variety, the role of market gatekeepers, and competition from imports. Improvements across the board could reduce Ghana’s reliance on low-cost imported tomato paste, improve its foreign exchange reserves, and provide employment and development opportunities in poor rural areas.
Kenda Cunningham, IFPRI-Accra, 021 780 716,