Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Project produces banana plantation - Set to create employment for 600
Golden Exotics Limited (GEL), a leading producer of bananas in Ghana has invested in a new plantation under the completed and modernised Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Project (KLBIP).
The move forms a major expansion drive by the GEL which already operates a 2,000-hectare plantation in Kusunya near Asutsuare in the Shai Osudoku District of the Greater Accra Region, under the Kpong Irrigation Scheme.
The expansion project is in line with GEL’s expectation of continued growth in Ghana.
The KLBIP forms part of a World Bank-funded Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP) to facilitate access to reliable water and land.
The Torgorme project, estimated at $34 million was designed to expand irrigable land from the initial 450 hectares constructed in the 1970s to about 2,500 hectares for farmers to go into commercial farming.
Speaking at a ceremonial planting of banana seedlings at the KLBIP in Torgorme in the North Tongue District last Wednesday, the Managing Director of GEL, Benedict Rich, said the plantation expansion would cover 500 hectares of land.
He said when fully completed over the next two to three years, the new plantation would employ about 600 people, adding that given the right support from the chiefs, people and policy makers as well as enough water supply, which they expressed the hope to expand in the future.
Mr Rich said the company’s plantation in Ghana, which was started in 2003, now exported over 85 per cent of 100,000 tonnes of bananas produced from Ghana annually, while employing 3,500 full time employees.
He said while they cherished the opportunity given to GEL to invest in the rehabilitated Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Scheme, the size of land allocated to them was smaller than their standard size of a banana plantation.
Mr Rich, however, expressed the hope that the success of the new venture would open other opportunities for them to grow the farm to the size of its Kasunya plantation.
He also expressed the hope that issues of land allocation to local farmers, which the Lands Commission was working on, would be expedited to avoid the problem of encroachment on lands already allocated to commercial farmers and the destruction of crops by cattles.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, commended GEL for being the first out of the 14 commercial farmers allocated lands, to take advantage of the rehabilitated Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Project at Torgorme.
He said this move would contribute substantially to the transformation agenda of the government.
The minister called for cooperation between investors, the chiefs and people of Torgome to ensure that the scheme was successfully implemented, so it went a long way to improve their standard of living.
He disclosed that to address some concerns of the chiefs, some portions of the project area had been allocated to smallholder farmers in the Torgorme community for vegetable cultivation.
The vice-president of Compagnie Fruitier in Ghana, major shareholders of GEL, Olivier Chassang, appealed to the government to improve the road network linking their production site and the Tema Port, to facilitate easy transportation of the produce.
He hinted of GEL’s desire to take advantage of the Tema-Mpakadan railway line currently under construction, to facilitate the transportation of produce from their production site to the Tema Port.
He said the benefit of such intervention would include a reduction in generalised cost, comprising vehicle operating cost, travel time, reduction in transportation cost and reduction in post-harvest losses.
The Mankrado of the Torgorme Traditional Area, Torgbe Gidi IV, said the project would create employment opportunities for the youth, alleviate poverty and enhance development in the communities within the catchment area of the irrigation scheme.