It is a hot afternoon on Friday June, 26, where the sun and cloud are in a turf war for the sky but on the market at Techiman, Maame Serwaa, is fighting a battle of survival with watermelon glut as she stirs at heaps of watermelon at the market. This 40-year-old trader is among others who hoped to cash in on a typical market day in Techiman, but are now left counting either their loses or meagre profits.
“This is the worst season for us ever since I started trading watermelon 20 years ago. Many farmers are now growing watermelon,” she said with her hands folded across her chest and his eyes glued to the fruits piling before her.
This is an indication of a bumper harvest forcing some traders on the Techiman and Nkoranza markets to abandon their products on the market – leaving it to rot because of excessive supply and lower demand.
In all this it is the poor farmer who suffers the most as the middlemen from big commercial centres including Kumasi, Accra, Sunyani and others milk these farmers since they have no option that to sell to them and making profit in the cities.
The biggest fruit, which was between GH¢15.00 to GH¢30.00 earlier this year when you visited the same markets is now between GH¢3.00 to GH¢10.00. On the farm gate, the fruit, depending on its size and colour are between 50 pesewas and GH¢5. Along the roadside, it is between GH¢3.00 and GH¢15.00.
According to the farmers and the Bono East Regional Director of MoFA [Ms Cecelia Kegya], myaimreport spoke to, many factors accounted for this excessive supply of the produce.
A favourable weather pattern, just enough rainfall and the decision of urban dwellers to invest in vast hectares of the fruit because of previous year’s win from watermelons have been some of the reasons attributed to the surplus.
“The thing with farmers is if some make some money this year from a particular crop, then everybody wants to join the party and plant the crop in question, … hence, the watermelon situation.”
They added “the early rains as well as the fact that even farmers who previously farmed vegetables went into watermelon are some contributing factors to this year’s bumper harvest. It gives the farmers quick money. It takes less than three months for the watermelon to mature. So farms that otherwise would have cultivated other crops and vegetables also cultivated watermelon, leading to so much of the crop being produced.”
Over the years, farmers in the Techiman, Tuobodom and Nkoranza area use watermelon as an avenue to make money in preparation for the new season when they cultivate vegetables including tomatoes, cowpea and staples like yam, cassava and maize.
A drought resistant crop, watermelon needs just a small amount of rain and an early rain in April opened the door for the farmers who saw an opportunity to make quick money but the end result has not been favourable.
To get a good yield, the farmers invest at least GH¢200 per acre in land preparation, spraying and weeding.
With respect to postharvest loses, , Ghana loses between 20 and 50 per cent of all vegetables, fruits, cereals, roots and tubers produced each year, while it struggles to achieve food security and eradicate hunger – according to the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation figures.
The losses are as a result of inadequate storage facilities, poor road infrastructure and the lack of ready market for most agricultural produce.
Postharvest losses are worrying situation in Ghana and the problem is as old as agriculture itself in Ghana. The statistics do not favour farmers whose best bet is selling to the consuming public with little to feed non-existing industries. Watermelon is no exception to this disturbing condition.
This is the lamentation of Mr Akwai Kyereme, who said “we [farmers] are tired, we produce so much, they [politicians] have consistently promised us a factory to process but nothing has come out of it. It is a waste of time discussing how much we lose every year because it will not amount to anything.”
The Bono East regional director of MoFA has called on the private sectors to help in the processing of raw materials from going waste. According her, the government has opened its doors to private business partners to engage in the processing factories. This way farmers and traders directly involved in agricultural produce like watermelon will be relieved of their predicaments.
The watermelon farmers in Bono East claim most of their watermelon go waste since the market women buy a big size of watermelon fruit just a cedi or even less at the farm. They added that, the farmers have to pay for the transportation fare to the nearest roadside before these women can take them wherever they so wish.
This is an unfortunate recurrent situation in the Techiman Nkoranza and its environs of the Bono East region – similar situations can be found in other part of the country. These farmers who engage in watermelon farming at times lose all their investment and find it difficult pay back their loans.
Madam Cecelia Kegya has pleaded with the farmers in the area to liaise with the Agricultural Extension Officers in various district to educate them on some of these things to avoid losses. She urged the farmers to adopt all year round farming practices which will meet the demands of their farm produce.