In Ghana about 90,000 smallholders grow tomatoes to supplement their income.
Tomatoes, however, mean more than just cash. They are an indispensable ingredient in the daily diet, used either fresh or in sauces and soups at most meals.
Tomatoes account for some 40 per cent of household outlay on vegetables.
The Demand-led food project, managed by the Global Change Institute, recently partnered with Prof. Eric Danquah and his team of scientists and educators at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI).
WACCI is a centre of research excellence and the largest educational institution in West Africa training the next generation of plant breeders.
In June 2015, WACCI convened a workshop of stakeholders in Ghana's tomato industry to understand value chain needs, and see how improved varieties and R+D can improve domestic production to serve Ghanaian households and processing markets.
With current average yields of only 6 – 7 tonnes per hectare, demand outstrips supply. Consequently, the import market for fresh tomatoes has grown in recent years. Many travel hundreds of kilometres from Burkina Faso, Ghana’s northern neighbour.
Almost 80,000 tonnes of puree and pastes are imported annually from China and the EU. However, Ghana could produce most of its own puree, if the processing plants were properly operational. Several difficulties hamper local production. They include lack of the right tomato varieties, inadequate and unreliable supply, and competition from the fresh markets.
Workshop participants included officials, farmers, processors, traders, seed producers, economists, crop and food scientists and irrigation experts. Together they formed a tomato consortium to address the challenges facing the industry.
Workshop lessons and the network created there will now shape detailed market research to design improved varieties for Ghanaian smallholders and their value chains.
Demand-led approaches for a national breeding program will also feed into PhD and MSc plant breeding curricula.
At the workshop, WACCI also launched and sought support for its vegetable innovation laboratory. Scientists there will focus on tomatoes and other important crops for West Africa. These include sweet and chilli peppers, onions, garden eggs and other indigenous vegetables.
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