Nelly Bassily | October 6, 2008
Jacob Kwabla Kpodo can readily name the challenges faced by tomato farmers in Ada, a coastal town in southern Ghana. Farmers are unable to purchase modern farming equipment. They have difficulty accessing loans. They cannot access trade routes and face marketing problems.
Still, the tomato business has been looking up for Ada farmers. Last November, the Ghanaian government banned the import of tomato paste, as part of an overall effort to reduce imports. Since then, demand for locally-produced tomatoes has grown, and farmers have been encouraged to produce more of the red fruit. Mr. Kpodo says that farmers have increased their yields. And, as tomato farming became more profitable, more youth became involved.
But Mr. Kpodo fears that all of these advances could disappear with the swish of a pen if his government signs an Economic Partnership Agreement, or EPA, with Europe. EPAs would mean easier access for European produce to African markets. The proposed agreements have led to a groundswell of protest in many African countries. In Ghana, the Association of Ghana Industries, Ghana Trade Union Congress, and other organizations are calling on the government to withhold its signature. Ghanaian farmers have now joined the protest.
Mr. Kpodo says that Ghana simply doesn’t have factories to package tomatoes to international standards. Therefore, he believes, if Ghana were opened to the world market, Ghanaian tomato products could not compete with European products. He says that the government should focus on renovating the country’s many tomato factories or constructing new ones.
Emmanual Amoak is Vice President of the Okyereko Co-operative Society. He has similar concerns about European rice freely entering the Ghanaian market if an EPA is signed. According to Mr. Amoak, it costs a Ghanaian farmer the equivalent of 450 American dollars (about 330 Euros) to produce a tonne of rice. A European farmer, benefitting from subsidies, can produce the same amount of rice for the equivalent of 275 American dollars (about 200 Euros). Instead of signing the EPAs, Mr. Amoak would like to see his government implement measures to keep foreign rice out of the country.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on EPA protests