The government has earmarked 18,000 unemployed graduates for the agricultural sector under the Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) initiative this year, Mr. George Oduro, a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture has announced.
The NaBCo is a government programme aimed at addressing graduate unemployment in the country and it is designed to employ jobless graduates and equip them with skills through a process of value addition and training.
It is engaging 100,000 graduates this year under seven modules- Educate Ghana, Heal Ghana, Feed Ghana, Revenue Ghana, Digitise Ghana, Civic Ghana and Enterprise Ghana.
Mr. Oduro, also Member of Parliament (MP) for New Edubiase stated when he addressed a meeting of tomato farmers, traders and some executive members of the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association (GNTTTA) on Thursday at Tuobodom in the Techiman North District of Brong-Ahafo Region.
It was organised by the Assembly at the behest of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, following the farmers’ concern for government’s intervention for them to get stable and fair price and ready market for the commodity.
The farmers requested for government’s support in that respect when President Akufo-Addo went to the place last Friday as part of his three day working visit to the Brong-Ahafo Region.
Mr. Oduro told the meeting of the efforts being made by government to ensure best practices in the fresh tomatoes farming industry to improve and increase production for the mutual benefit of the farmers, consumers and the nation.
He stressed the need for the proper and more attractive packaging of the commodity, announcing that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) was to introduce the use of smaller, averaged-sized plastic containers in place of the bigger, heavier wooden boxes to convey fresh tomatoes from the farm gates to the marketing centres.
One advantage of that measure among others, Mr Oduro said was the reduction of the amount of spoilage of the fruits, which would tend to reduce financial losses by the farmers and the traders.
He observed that over-reliance on the use of chemicals and wrong-application of them by the farmers in the production process as one of the causal factors that affected the quality of the fruits.
Mr. Oduro therefore assured that MoFA would employ more Agriculture Extension Agents (AEAs) for them to be closer to the farmers to direct them on the right application of the chemicals in addition to other necessary services about modern, technological farming methods for high and quality yields.
He added that quality fruits could only be harvested if quality viable seeds were planted and thus advised the farmers to always contact the District Directorate of MoFA for such seeds to plant.
On stable, regulated price and marketing of the commodity, as was being done in Burkina Faso, Mr. Oduro suggested that the farmers must organise to come out with a standard, uniform price in all areas of production of the commodity nationwide.
He advised the farmers and traders to allow the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, as basic requirements of successful business practice to prevail and guide them in their dealings with themselves.
Mr. Oduro gave the advice in response to an earlier complain by Mr. Baffour Afrifa, the Chairman of Tuobodom Tomato Farmers Association in his welcoming address, that some of the women buyers were not honest as they tried to convince some of the farmers to buy on credit but either failed completely to pay later or not on schedule.
The Deputy Minister emphasised “you must avoid cutting corners” in the processes of production and marketing of the commodity because it was a two way affair- if a farmer dishonestly loaded unripe tomato fruits under the wooden boxes, a buyer who bought on credit would likewise be dishonest in paying back, he added.
Mr. Peter Mensah, the District Chief Executive for Techiman North also addressed the meeting and assured the farmers and traders of the Assembly’s support to make the fresh tomato business thrive even better in the District.