Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minister for Trade and Industry has announced a GH¢1 million funding for the revamping of the Northern Star Tomato factory at Pwalugu in the Talensi District of the Upper East Region.
He said rehabilitation works on the factory was expected to commence in the first quarter of 2014, to create jobs for the teaming unemployed youth in the Region.
Mr Haruna indicated that government was committed to revitalizing the factory in the coming years to ensure its full operation because it was a viable and profitable entity. “Job opportunities will be created with a sustained tomato supply chain industry”, he said.
The Trades and Industry Minister made the announcement on Monday when he paid a working visit to the Upper East to acquaint himself with the operations and activities of the Northern Star Tomato Factory and to make known Government’s policy decision on the factory.
The visit also afforded him the opportunity to interact with some Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the Region.
As part of the visit, Mr Iddrisu inaugurated a seven-member Interim Management Board to oversee the activities of the Pwalugu factory to further open it up to public-private partnership as a management model to keep the factory viable.
He said government would partner the leadership and management of the factory to improve its operations by injecting the needed funding to improve equipment and encourage linkages with smallholder tomato farmers to keep the factory functional all year round.
The factory, he observed, was a major industrial economic venture for the region and government was determined to use it to reduce poverty and unemployment to the barest minimum in the Region and the country as a whole.
According to the Minister, the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure in the Upper East Region would be pursued vigorously to allow for all-year-round farming, adding that in 2014, government with support from the revised Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF), would provide funding for the commencement of works on the Tamne Irrigation Project near Bawku.
Besides, he indicated that government would provide support for the Vea and Tono Irrigation dams to ensure the cultivation of tomato and other horticultural crops for domestic and export markets.
Mr Iddrisu announced that in 2014, the President’s special support for Sheanut and Cashew project would take off with a minimum investment of GH¢5 million to increase the number of Sheanut trees to 1000, while tree seedlings would be further increased to 2000 by 2016, as it was a major industrial crop for export and an attraction for many foreign investors.
Mr Charles Gunu, Managing Director of the Northern Star Tomato Company Limited, indicated that the factory saw some rehabilitation works in 2006 and had been in operation until 2008 when it stopped functioning due to logistical challenges.
The factory which has a daily production capacity of 500 tons with about 12,500 crates of tomatoes a day, has suffered low production due to the unavailability of raw materials and broken down equipment including its vacuum pumps which cost about 15,000 Euros as well as the canning equipment which also cost about GH¢ 49,000.
Mr Gunu expressed optimism that officials of the factory were willing to work to increase production if the issue of encumbrances was effectively dealt with.
Alhaji Limuna Mohammed-Muniru, Upper East Regional Minister who joined the team to inspect the factory assured the chiefs and people of Pwalugu of government’s renewed commitment to get the factory working to reduce unemployment in the area.