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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pineapple producers call for critical attention to industry

Ghana’s pineapple industry holds great potentials to increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings and employment creation, according to producers.

They are however worried the sector’s expansion is stifled by increasing cost of production and lack of support to stay competitive in the global export market.

“Production cost - cost of fertilizer, cost of diesel, cost of maintaining our tractors are really escalating. If you really want to make profit, then you have to do a large size of farming”, stated Eric Yamoah Painstil, Farm Manager of Jei River Farms, one of the largest pineapple plantations in Ghana.

Jei River Farms is a wholly-owned Ghanaian company producing pineapple for the local and international fresh fruit markets – mainly growing MD2 variety as well as the Smooth Cayenne, Sugar Loaf and Queen Victoria pineapple types.

Last year, the company exported 6,826 metric tons of produce to European markets. A target of 8,000 tons has been set for 2012, which represents over 70 percent of total production; the rest are supplied to local fruit processing companies.

Ghana’s pineapple export potentials are however threatened on the global scale, said the pineapple producer.

“We are competing with countries like Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico – they are the people who are pushing us out of the market in Europe”, observed Eric.

The governments of most of these countries, he noted, offer substantial support to the producers, in recognition of the foreign exchange earnings from the sector.

Eric is therefore unhappy the Ghanaian government is not lending a hand to individual farmers to increase the country’s export earnings and job creation.

“There can be thousands of jobs if the pineapple industry is taken care of”, he said.

Established close to two decade ago, Jei River Farms produces all-year round and currently employs over 400 in various sections of the company, including farm hands and others in produce processing and packaging.

Eric, like most of his colleagues, believes government’s involvement remains critical to grow the sector to the benefit of the national economy.

“Nobody cares”, he decried. “They are not thinking about the employment we’re creating for the people, so we feel it’s time that the government turned a second eye and look at the pineapple industry, inject more money into it so we get our people from the streets”.

Meanwhile, Yara Ghana, leading mineral fertilizer production and distribution company is exploring means to meet the fertilizer needs of pineapple producers in the country.

A team from the company visited the Jei River Farms as part of a drive to develop fertilizer products for the specific needs in agricultural production.

Retail Sales Manager, Henry Otoo Mensah said areas of interest include pineapple, maize, rice, tomatoes, sorghum and soya bean.

“We try to take one crop at a time and then develop that crop to be able to achieve the highest potential in that area, so far as fertilizer application is concerned”, he stated.

“In this instance, we chose Jei River Farms and for that matter a pineapple farm because pineapple is gradually becoming important to us now. We think that fertilizer development in pineapple is not up to the standard, so these groups will bring their expertise to bear in terms of developing a proper product for pineapple”.

According to Mr. Otoo Mensah, Jei River Farms is on the right track and would need all the support to succeed.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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