Agric in Ghana: MD2 pineapple variety; a curse to farmers

A pineapple variety touted to change a sector of Ghana’s farming community resulted in huge loss and heartache. Pulse.com.gh news editor Betty Kankam-Boadu investigates.

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Not so long ago, Moses Gameti found he had  60,000 rotting pineapples.

The farmer was talked into switching his tried and trusted Smooth Ceyenne variety of pineapples for the MD2 variety, which was supposed to be the turnaround pineapple farmers  yearned for.

“We invested heavily both our time, our labour and the money aspect as well,” Gameti tells pulse.com.gh.

“Initially it was going on well… but along the line things changed.”

play Moses Gameti pineapple farmer

 

Gameti is one of the many pineapple farmers who have lost huge sums of money for planting MD2 variety.

Some of these farmers have either abandoned farming altogether or have run out of the country because their creditors are chasing after them.

This is because when MD2 was introduced as the world’s number one variety no proper training was given to farmers in Ghana on how to manage the crop, and they were not told that it was capital intensive.

Gameti’s eight acre pineapple farm is at Fotobi, one of the surrounding villages near Nsawam. Most of the pineapple farmers in Accra are around this area.

He used to have a 15 acre Smooth Cayenne farm but he destroyed the farm and switched to MD2 production.

“I planted 60,000 all got rotten and so I came back to square zero,” he says.

With the passion for farming, after losing everything he started all over again, this time going back to planting the Smooth Cayenne variety.

Until the introduction of MD2  from Costa Rica in 2004, many of Ghana’s farmers cultivated the Smooth Cayenne variety, experts say this variety is one of the best you can find in the world.

 “If you want to get the true pineapple taste there is no way you can compare MD2 to Smooth Cayenne,“ agronomist Ernest Ablor tells pulse.com.gh.

He is the chief agronomist at Blue Skies Limited, the largest market for pineapples in Ghana.

play Ernest Ablor chief agronomist with Blue Skies

 

On a weekly basis the 18 year old company processes between 200 to 250 tons of pineapples.

Before MD2, Smooth Cayenne was the main variety of pineapple in Ghana,  followed by Sugarloaf which was mainly for the local market.

When MD2 came Ablor says farmers were practically forced to go into production.

“The banks will not loan you any money if you were going for Smooth Cayenne, farmers destroyed all their farms.” He says.

Until recently both the MD2 and Smooth Cayenne variety were in short supply and Blue Skies has to import  from neighboring Ivory Coast, defeating the whole purpose of setting up the company in Doboro - the hub of pineapple.

play Farmer planting pineapples

 

But, the farmers found out the  MD2 variety is not an easy one to plant.

“Our eco system does not support the MD2 as compared to that of the Smooth Cayenne,” to Gameti says, “we also realised that it is capital intensive and you need much attention and you have to be applying the chemical on time. When you fail the time you are definitely failing the plant.”

Billy Gametey, another pineapple farmer faced similar challenges as Gameti when he planted MD2.

He owns a 300 acre Smooth Cayene farm. He is the largest supplier to Blue Skies.  He didn’t hesitate to switch from MD2 to Smooth Cayene when he realised he was wasting his time and money.

“I also planted the MD2 but it didn’t help me so I quickly moved away,”  he says.

“Anytime it was time for it to be harvested they all get rotten and the chemicals I was buying were just too many so I was running at a loss.”

Was switching to MD2 necessary?

Despite the craze all over the world, MD2 clearly was not a good venture for farmers in Ghana.  Most farmers have lost money which cannot be recovered.

The switch would not have been necessary if government had ensured that farmers kept the quality standard of the Smooth Cayenne required on the international market.

“Smooth Cayenne quality couldn’t compete on the international market because there wasn’t any standard in the country there wasn’t any serious institution controlling the quality of fruit going out of the country. So farmers were cutting corners and doing what they like,” says Ablor.

Again farmers did not have the necessary support from government to ensure that they succeeded with the MD2 variety.

And the climate in Ghana did not support the MD2 variety which needed a lot of attention and nurturing.

Solution

MD2 caused unneeded stress and heartache for farmers and their families, and led to a shortage of the fruit.

So with the failed venture farmers have had to switch back to Smooth Cayenne, but this requires support.

Ablor advices government to get farmers involved in every decision which will affect the farmers.

" If farmers were involved in that decision making it would have made a difference," he says  .

"Our Standard Authority should be up and doing, making sure that at least [if] we sell in the name of Ghana they should not allow just anything to move out of our ports."

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