Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
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Glut, scarcity of fruits, food!

Saturday, May 25, 2024, was the 61st anniversary of the formation of the African Union (AU).

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The African Union, technically (now 22 years old), came into being in July 2002 when it replaced the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founded on  May 25, 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Some of the OAU’s founding fathers were Ghana’s Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria, Sekou Toure of Guinea and Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt.

Contrary to what some Ghanaians expected, May 25, 2024, passed quietly with no AU commemoration. On TV that night, the news focused on the plight of tomato farmers at Ellembele, Western Region, as their tomatoes rot away with no market.

Coincidentally, a friend I chatted with lamented the sorry state of the Nsawam Canneries when he saw it during the week. This was one of many of Osagyefo’s import-substituting factories, as was his envisioned Pwalugu Tomato Factory in the 1960s.

There was also news on Ghana’s approval of 18 Genetically Modified (GMO) seeds. Mentioning “Tomatoes,” took me back to my May 2018 article in the Daily Graphic titled “Coconuts, watermelons and tomatoes “(cwt)” Part read as follows:

The almost forgotten abbreviation “cwt” that we were taught in Science at school in the 1960s, stood for “hundredweight.” This is a unit of measure which has one hundredweight, equivalent to one hundred (100) US pounds, or one hundred and twelve (112) Imperial/British pounds.

My experience is that, while fruits and vegetables are weighed and sold by the pound or kilogramme in many African countries I have visited, Ghana does not sell fruits and vegetables by weight.

 Therefore, during the season of plenty, coconuts, watermelons and tomatoes (cwt) as well as all perishable agricultural commodities are sold cheaply. During the lean season a few months later, prices rocket to space. There is no canning to serve as a buffer for balance.

Watermelons

Recently I moved out of my comfort zone to explore some parts of Accra I had not visited in a long while. The commonest “landmark” I saw either on the ground in their hundreds, or being transported to be dumped on the ground at their final destinations for sale were watermelons.

There is a glut of the fruit everywhere. Farmers are forced to sell them cheaply because of their perishable nature. Indeed, my observation applies to tomatoes, oranges, onions, plantains, yams, fish etc.

They are cheap and rot away with high post-harvest losses. We still use “olonka” and “margarine tin” as a unit of measure for rice, maize and other cereals at our markets. Fruits are counted and priced!

 A rough approximation of the average-sized watermelon is about the size of a football. Five such jumbo-sized watermelons were recently bought for ten cedis at Ada Junction. 
The alternative for the farmer is to leave the melons to rot and go hungry, which is not a realistic option.

As soon as the peak season is over, prices will start rising. In the lean season, one watermelon sells for over twenty cedis! This is an annual ritual. A few months back, tomatoes suffered the same fate with a glut on the market.

As I write, tomato prices have shot up to five cedis for one because the season is over with the coming of the rains. 

Questions

I asked myself, why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we decide to continue to operate so close to nature with all the knowledge, science and technology around us? Are our leaders/rulers, or “misleaders,” as African leaders are described by the Kenyan civil rights activist Professor PLO Lumumba, only interested in their families and friends?

Even if they did not know before becoming leaders, they travel outside Ghana and see the thinking that has gone into basic operations such as the canning of fruits and juices. Ghana had the Nsawam Canneries as far back as the 1960s.

Over sixty years after independence, why do farmers watch helplessly as their fruits and vegetables rot, while our shops are filled with expensive canned fruits from other parts of the world?

Why can we not have a cannery in the general area of Ada-Dawhenya for watermelons and tomatoes and one for citrus in the Asamankese-Kade area? How about mangoes which grow all over the country?

Sadly, while our mangoes rot here, we import millions of dollars of mangoes from Burkina-Faso

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Expatriate 

An expatriate who worked in Ghana as a government official retired and left for his country. Almost immediately, he returned as a private citizen and established a pineapple farm on the banks of the Volta River.

 Using local labour, he had his pineapples sliced and canned on the farm. Customs did their certification and the canned pineapples were shipped to his country! Is this Rocket Science our leaders need to be schooled in?

Business destruction    

Unfortunately, people I have talked to contend that, Ghanaian businessmen/women have not recovered from the psychological damage done to their businesses during the revolutionary days of the 1970s and 1980s when all successful businessmen were declared thieves and hounded.

Examples are given of the destruction of the local soap industry of Dr Ephson and Mr Appiah-Menkah, the poultry industry of Mr Darko, the International Tobacco of Mr BA Mensah and indeed Tata Brewery of Mr Siaw.

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In advocating solutions, I may be guilty of reinventing the wheel. This is because there is nothing new to tell Ghanaians which we have not known since I was a little boy in the 1960s.

The problem has been bad leadership. We had the Bolgatanga Corned-Beef Factory, Pwalugu Tomato Factory and Nsawam Canneries for fruits and vegetables. 
Nantwi Milk was produced at the Agricultural Farm at Amrahia.

Today, milk produced in the Volta Region is left to rot for lack of market, the result of bad roads. Meanwhile, Ghana imports milk and dairy produce. We import tomatoes while local tomatoes in Ningo-Prampram rot away. We import laboratory-made mango juice while our mangoes rot.

Outside Ghana, I have drunk canned coconut juice. Why do we still drive whole coconuts from the Western Region to Accra only for the husks to add to our unsanitary conditions? 

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Leadership

Our problem is leadership. As a cadet, I was taught that leaders solve problems, not talk copiously explaining why they have failed to solve problems. Leadership will be effective if it is selfless and honest with integrity. Over sixty years after independence, we have no reason to continue importing food, fruits/fruit juices which Ghana produced locally in the 1960s! 

Need I repeat my submissions in my May 2018 article as tomatoes rot on our farms while oligarchs make profits importing tinned tomatoes? Bob Marley said, “The greatness of a man/(leader) is not how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively!” Governance is not Rocket Science! As British Field Marshal Slim said, “Leadership is plain commonsense!”

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!

The writer is the former CEO of the African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya/Council Chair Family Health University College, Accra.  
E-mail: [email protected]

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