Graphic Online

Graphic Online 

Coconuts, watermelons and tomatoes - urgent need to prevent them from wasting

Author: Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (retd)
Tomato glut and watermelon
Tomato glut and watermelon

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 100 US pounds, or 112 Imperial or 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, even though we do so for meat.

Therefore, during the season of plenty, coconuts, watermelons and tomatoes (cwt), as well as all perishable agricultural commodities, sell 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.

Unfortunately unlike meat, fruits and vegetables are not sold by the weight in Ghana.

Indeed, my observation applies to tomatoes, oranges, onions, plantains, yams, fish etc.

They are cheap and rot away with very high post-harvest losses.

We still use “olonka” and “margarine tin” as a unit of measurement for rice, maize and other cereals at our markets. Fruits are weighed by sight!

A rough approximation of the average-sized watermelon is about the size of a football.

Five such jumbo-sized watermelons were recently bought for GH¢10 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 20 cedis! This is an annual ritual.

A few months back, tomatoes suffered the same fate with a glut on the market. As I write,the price of tomatoes has shot up 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 and science and technology around us?

Are our leaders or “misleaders”, as African leaders are described by the Kenyan civil rights activist, Professor PLO Lumumba, interested only in themselves and 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 operation such as canning of fruits and juices.

Ghana had the Nsawam Canneries as far back as the 1960s.

Over 60 years after independence, why do farmers watch helplessly as their fruits and vegetables rot while our shops are filled with expensive fresh and 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?

Expatriate

An expatriate who worked in Ghana as a government official retired on his return to his country. He returned to Ghana immediately 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 and women have not recovered from the psychological damage done to 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 and indeed the Tata Brewery whose owner, Mr Siaw, had to flee to die in penury in another country.

Solution

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 and unfortunately continues to be 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.

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 insanitary conditions?

Leadership

Our problem is leadership.

Leaders are paid to solve problems, and not talk copiously to explain why they have failed to solve problems. Leadership will be effective if it is selfless and honest with integrity.

Over 60 years after independence, we have no reason to continue importing food, fruits and fruit juices which Ghana produced in the 1960s.

Coconuts, watermelons and tomatoes (cwt) deserve better and so do Ghanaians! Governance is not Rocket Science!