More than two years after the opening of the new Komenda sugar factory in the Central region, it remains shut, with the State still spending about 200 million dollars annually to import sugar.
Farmers who were encouraged to cultivate sugar cane are disappointed that government has not done enough to put the factory to work. They complain government is not keeping its side of the bargain after making them invest heavily in the cultivation of thousands of acres of sugarcane.
When the new Komenda Sugar factory was officially opened on May 30, 2016, many farmers in the catchment area were brimming with happiness. They were sure sugar cane would be the new cocoa, however, the story turned sour making farmers bitter because all their sugar cane perished on their farms.
61-year-old Kweku Mensah, is one of the aggrieved farmers. He lamented after that personnel from the sugar factory cajoled him to abandon cassava and plant sugarcane, they reneged on their promise to buy his sugarcane. “I went to the factory eight (8) times begging them to transport my sugarcane for processing and they finally told me to find another buyer because the factory had a problem. My friends who cultivated cassava reaped good profit and I got nothing”. He cried.
The President of the Sugarcane Growers Association Mr. James Mensah is upset because his members have been handed a raw deal. He has threatened to organize a protest to compel government to start operations. “In Ghana, if you don’t demonstrate no one listens to you. We will start a demonstration immediately after our group receives a certificate”.
Mr. James Mensah said he was hopeful when officials of the Ministry of Trade met them and requested 10,000 acres of land for sugar cane cultivation.
“Already we had 2000 acres, so we met various chiefs and secured the additional 8,000 but they (Officials of Ministry of Trade) promised to come and meet the chiefs to release lands but they did not show up”. He has therefore concluded that the Ministry of Trade is not serious about making the Komenda sugar factory operational. “We are serious! You want 10,000 acres. Already, you 2,000 acres so why don’t you start with 2,000 and keep expanding.”
The farmers are singing a sad tune while local beverage distillers are making a killing because of large supply of sugar cane. Oversupply of the raw materials which could perish in a short time has compelled akpeteshie distillers to push down the price of sugarcane.
A truckload of sugarcane that normally sold at 450 cedis could sell as low as 380 cedis. Akpeteshie distiller, Joseph Yaw Ampong with a grin on his face stated “now I don’t go to farms begging them to give me sugarcane. They rather come here and beg me to come for their canes. So I reduce the price. If you like it come, if you don’t, you go away”.
The New Komenda Sugar Factory, for now, is not producing sugar. It is a monument showing Ghanaians what bad planning and neglect look like.
The 35 million India Exim loan facility which has the capacity to crush 1250 tonnes of sugar cane daily and also employ about 7000 youth remains closed while sugar worth 200 million dollars are imported into the country annually.