Many private investors are declining offers to construct warehouses in the North East region as part of the government’s 1-district 1-warehouse project due to fears over the consistent supply of raw materials.
This is according to the Deputy Minister for Agriculture in charge of Annual Crops, Dr Sagre Bambangi.
He made the comment while reacting to reports that watermelons produced in the North East region are rotting away due to the unavailability of a ready market, warehouse for storage and a processing factory in the area.
The Daily Graphic, in a recent publication, indicated that many farmers there were incurring huge debts because they are unable to sell their produce on time, while there are no warehouses to store the watermelons until they get buyers.
According to the publication, a large size of the fruit, which used to be sold for GH¢ 10, now goes for as low as GH¢ 2 at the farm gate. Even at that price, some of the farmers are unable to attract buyers, leaving the fruits to rot on the farms.
The Daily Graphic said heaps of the watermelon meant to attract buyers along the Nalerigu/Bunkpurugu road were getting rotten, while other farmers gave out the fruits to commuters for free.
A farmer at Buguya in the West Mamprusi municipality, Abdulai Zackaria, who cultivated about five acres of watermelon but could not get buyers for it said: “I spent about GH¢ 800 on the farm but I have not been able to recoup the money I invested, and even though I had a bumper harvest, there are no buyers.”
According to Dr. Bambangi, the challenge of losing produce due to the lack of warehouses have long existed in the area.
He said due to the high cost involved in transporting the produce to some markets, farmers are unable to access it.
“When you talk to prospective industrialists who are interested in the 1-district 1 warehouse, they see it to be a huge challenge because some of them are thinking about the sustainability of supply of raw material. We don’t have irrigation systems of production from this watermelon. It is rain-fed and quite seasonal,” he said.
Dr. Bambangi further noted that having a watermelon-processing factory in the area may come with challenges due to the short shelf life of the processed watermelon.
“Even when you process watermelon, the shelf life on even the processes stuff is no going to be long. I’m yet to learn of a technology that can process and keep it for a long period. The prospective industrialists are still exploring into these areas,” he added.