The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) expects a bumper harvest of plantain in the Agogo area of the Ashanti Region this year despite a slump in production and export of the produce between January and September.
According to the Asante Akim North Municipal Director of Agriculture, Mr Eric Dwomoh, unfavourable rainfall between March and June, this year, led to exports to Togo and Burkina Faso falling to 2,785.46 metric tonnes this year, from a high of 6,748.67 metric tonnes within the same period last year.
In terms of revenue, GH¢14,652, 835 was realised in the first nine months of last year from the exports, but within the same period this year, the proceeds fell to GH¢5,700,525.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in an interview after the launch of the second Agogo Plantain Festival last Tuesday, Mr Dwomoh said, “With meteo services saying rainfall will improve, we hope to see bumper harvest between now and January, next year”.
Value of festival
Organised by the Agogo Traditional Council in partnership with MoFA, the festival which was instituted last year is meant to demonstrate the economic benefits of plantain farming.
This year’s event will be held from November 12 -14 on the theme, “Assessing the benefits of plantain production – contribution from all stakeholders”.
The 2021 Plantain Festival comes after a successful take-off last year. The festival has its roots from the bushfires of 1983 when Agogo’s forest reserve was devastated by bush fires.
The Omanhene of Agogo, Nana Akuoko Sarpong, acquired hectares of the reserve from the Department of Forestry and put them under plantain cultivation.
His personal effort was so successful that he emerged the overall best plantain farmer in the 1988 National Best Farmer Awards.
Thereupon, the people took to plantain cultivation. The result has been phenomenal and today, people refer to “Agogo Plantain” in the same way as Ghanaians used to refer to “Obuasi Ankaa” (oranges) in times past.
On Tuesdays, truck loads line up the Agogo routes taking plantain to other parts of the country.
The Ghana Cocoa Board now goes to Agogo to buy plantain suckers for cultivation in cocoa growing areas of the Western Region.
ManyAgogo citizens, who migrated to other parts of the country, are returning home to do plantain farming, while those in Europe and America are remitting their relations with specific instruction to invest the money in plantain cultivation.
“The Agogo miracle is the miracle of leadership,” commented Nana Bediako Brogya Sarpong, Dompiahene of Agogo and CEO of Brogya Resources Limited, an upstream and downstream oil and gas company.
He said, “once upon a time, Agogo was the second-largest producer of cocoa. Then the fires came. Today, see what a people can do under inspired visionary leadership”.
Mr Dwomoh said the government had introduced subsidies on organic fertiliser, which was good for plantain production so farmers should go for it.
“Now we have enough agriculture extension agents and the ministry plans to recruit more so farmers will have improved technical services.
Mr Dwomoh further stated that plantain farming was receiving a boost in Agogo because the problems with Fulani herdsmen had been largely resolved saving the farms from destruction by cattle.
He called for irrigation facilities to further boost production.
Nana Akuoko Sarpong challenged the National House of Chiefs to champion the creation of specialised zones for cultivation of particular crops in their paramountcy and use the resultant economic boom to reverse rural-urban migration.
“From Mampong to Amantin, from Atebubu, Prang to Yeji,the land is a paradise for the cultivation of maize, rice and other cereals. The North has an ideal soil for cultivating sunflower for oil.
“Once upon a time, Obuasi was synonymous with oranges; when you talked of rice, you thought of places such as Aveyime and Nasia, in the same way as the northern belt had built a reputation with the shea butter,” he told the Daily Graphic pointing out that “the economic boom will come from either the export or the downstream operations when we set up factories to process the crops”.
The Omanhene said the time had come for Africa to wise up to the reality in the advanced countries where 10 per cent of the people farmed to feed the millions and provide raw materials for factories, as opposed to Africa where 70 per cent did the farming and, even then, could not feed themselves let alone the whole nation.
“The only reason is that over there, the farmers are knowledgeable and farming is a skill. Also, unlike us, they plan their agriculture without leaving out important linkages such as transportation which is a sine qua non,” the lawyer and former Minister of State observed.
He added, “That is why hard as we try, we still are unable to produce cocoa in the quantities that will send us right back to the top where we used to be on the world market”.
He said the Plantain Festival had come to stay because the benefits from plantain production were enormous.