A tomato processing factory, set within reach of local farmers, which operates throughout the year has the potential to increase the income of farmers.
Ghana has the right topographical and agro-ecological conditions, and one of the biggest agricultural dams in West Africa (the Tono Dam, situated in a tomato farming region) can be used to produce tomato all year round.
By industry estimates, Ghana produces over 300,000 metric tonnes of tomatoes, 90% of which is consumed locally. Tomato is a staple ingredient in the daily diet of Ghanaians, and accounts for 38.0%f total vegetable expenditure in Ghana. Popular varieties grown in Ghana include Roma VF, Laurano, Raki, Chocó TP, Power Reno, Rasta, Italy Heinz and Petomech, which are mostly suitable for processing.
Ghana is estimated to consume in excess of 100,000 metric tonnes of tomato paste annually at a cost of more than USD 100 million.
Tomato production in the Upper East region of Ghana alone employs about 11,728 farming families with an average family size of 5 persons. It is estimated that 58,640 persons benefit from its production as noted in a survey report by Trade Aid Integrated.
It is clear from the foregoing that demand of tomatoes far outstrips supply which makes it a lucrative business.
Preparing the Land
Tomato farming is very simple. Anyone can do it in any capacity, either in your backyard or in commercial quantity. Growing tomato is much more rewarding than you could imagine. Tomato can be grown round the year. Ideally, the soil for tomatoes farming should have lots of organic matter and humus, and also have a neutral Ph that is under 7.
Most parts in Ghana will have this soil property to support this vegetable. Prepare the ground by clearing the grasses and rubble, loosen the soil with hand trowel and hoes.
- Picking the best seeds: Heirloom tomatoes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among home gardeners and organic producers, since they tend to produce more crops at a lower cost. It is also resistant to diseases. It has a hard back, and low water content which enables it to last longer after harvest.
- Preparing the Nursery: This can be done around March/April when the rain is just beginning in most parts of the country. You can use your backyard for the nursery or any other piece of land that is suitable for it. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and spread it on the prepared soil. You can cover it with dry grasses to prevent the lose of moisture from the soil and prevent birds ants fowls from eating off the tomato seeds. Within 5-7 days you will see it germinating. Wait till about another five days before you remove the dry grasses to allow for proper growth. Leave it for another one month before transplanting.
- Transplanting: You need to be careful with the tender plant to avoid breaking it. Transplanting is best done with hands for better results.
- Open the soil with piece of small wood, insert the seedling into the hole and cover it with lose soil. Tomato plant is very tender and fragile, it is best transplanted the same day you uprooted it from the nursery to avoid dehydration and fatigue.
- Maintaining the Farm: After two months of transplanting, it will be time for weeding. You can hire laborers to do the weeding while you supervise to ensure that your tomato plants are not damaged during the process of removing weeds.
5.Harvesting your Tomatoes: Tomato is harvested in batches, the moment you starts harvesting, you’ll continue on weekly basis till the end of the season, usually it will keep producing till the dry season when the plant will die off due to the scorching heat.
The first harvest starts within three months after planting. That means if you plant by April, you should be expecting your first harvest to start by June/July. From then, it will continue till November/December
References: goodmanamc, wealthresults, wikipedia