Mango farmers have called for assistance to deal with a devastating disease that is fast destroying their mango farms.
Known as Bacterial Black Spots (BBS), the disease attacks the leaves and the fruits, rendering the fruits bad, thereby causing the farmers a lot in terms of losses.
Speaking at a forum in Kumasi, the 2011 National Best Mango Farmer, Mr Kwasi Etu-Bonde, said the disease was widespread in the Brong Ahafo Region and fast spreading to other mango-producing areas in the country.
The forum was organised by the West Africa Trade Hub and Investment Project on agribusinesses access to finance, and attended by financial institutions and farmers from the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions.
The project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will run for three years.
The regional project will work with financial advisors who are also business advisory service providers to train small and medium-size businesses in planning and also coach them on banking conditions and prerequisites.
Mr Etu-Bonde, who is the Managing Director of Sky3 Farms, said the farmers had no clue as to how to handle the disease and that most of them were considering getting out of mango production and diverting into other crops that were not susceptible to disease.
Last year, for instance, he said, as result of the disease, “we lost about 70 per cent of our fruits”.
According to him, he harvested only 37 tonnes of fruits from his 15-acre mango farm, which should have yielded 120 tonnes.
He said the farm was attacked by the disease because there was no local knowledge about its management.
He said the BBS was usually characterised by black spots on the leaves of the mango tree and some of the leaves tended to be raised and angular in shape because they were confined by the larger veins.
He said some of the fruits also got cracked, became rotten and dropped from the tree even before they matured for harvesting.
Black scabby spots were formed on the fruit, often with star-shaped cracks within them, and the spots had water-soaked margins, he said.
He appealed to the government and the agric-based organisation to assist mango farmers in managing the disease, as it posed a danger to the survival of the sector.
He said most of the training extended to farmers had been office based and was hopeful that some of them would be field based to give farmers practical demonstration of the interventions.
The Chief of Party of the Trade Hub, Mr Jeffrey Povolny, said the project was working with eight financial advisors in Ghana and 28 across the sub-region.
He said through the workshops and fora, the project was engaging the financial advisors “so that they can understand agribusiness and develop products tailored to the particular financing needs of agribusinesses and agricultural export”.
He said the objective of the project was to empower agribusinesses to produce more for the local and export market and also to add value to their produce, thereby earning more income and reducing poverty.