Business News of 2013-12-25

Gov’t to revamp Pwalugu tomato factory

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu 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 and that the factory would create jobs for unemployed youth.

Mr Iddrisu indicated that government was committed to revitalising 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 Trade and Industry Minister made the announcement 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 decision on the factory.

The visit also afforded the Minister 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.

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 that government was determined to use it to reduce poverty and unemployment.

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 increase to 2000 by 2016.

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 tonnes 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 help reduce unemployment in the area.