Ghana's Tomato Crisis -Disconnect between Production and Consumption


Under the hot Ghanaian sun, you’d expect markets to be full of fresh, locally grown tomatoes. Tomatoes are used in many Ghanaian dishes like jollof rice and pepper soup. With so much good farmland, it’s surprising and unacceptable that people in Ghana are paying a lot of money for tomatoes.

Instead, the reality is different. In cities and towns across Ghana, people are paying very high prices for tomatoes—if they can even find them. This confusing situation has left many Ghanaians wondering what's going on.

"Tomatoes used to be so affordable and easy to find," says Ama, a mother of three in Accra. "Now, I can hardly find them, and when I do, they cost too much. It's become a luxury instead of an everyday food."

The reasons for this crisis are complicated. Even though Ghana has great land for growing tomatoes, the country still relies heavily on imports to meet the demand.

"We could grow enough tomatoes ourselves," says Dr. Kwame Asuming, an agricultural economist. "Ghana has the perfect conditions for growing tomatoes, and many farmers want to grow them. The problem is we haven’t invested enough in the infrastructure, storage, and markets needed to get these tomatoes from the farms to the consumers affordably and efficiently."

Ghanaian tomato farmers face many challenges. They lack access to good seeds, fertilizers, and support services, which makes it hard to grow enough tomatoes. After harvesting, poor storage and transportation methods lead to many tomatoes being wasted. When there is a surplus of tomatoes, farmers often have to sell them at very low prices because there aren't good systems in place to manage the supply.

"It's a vicious cycle," says Fatima, a tomato farmer in the Brong Ahafo region. "We work hard to grow tomatoes, but we can’t get a fair price because the market gets flooded. Then, when demand goes up again, prices become too high for most people. There has to be a better way."

According to Ramata, this year’s Eid celebrations were different; most people couldn’t cook enough to share with their friends as they did before. Besides meat being expensive, tomatoes and other ingredients for stew also cost too much.

Experts say the solution is to address several problems at once. This includes investing in better irrigation, cold storage, and modern transportation to reduce waste. Farmers also need better access to seeds, fertilizers, training, and market information to improve their productivity and income.

Policymakers should also look at trade policies that have flooded the Ghanaian market with cheap imported tomatoes, which hurt local farmers. By balancing local production with smart trade, Ghana can become self-sufficient in tomatoes. Additionally, encouraging people to grow tomatoes in their own homes could help reduce the shortage.

"We have everything we need for success—the land, the climate, and hardworking farmers," says Dr. Asuming. "With the right planning and investments, there’s no reason why every Ghanaian household can’t have affordable, locally-grown tomatoes. It's possible if we are willing to make the necessary changes."

Commercial tomato farming can be done in 12 out of the 16 regions of Ghana, including Ashanti, Northern, Volta, Eastern, Upper East, Greater Accra, Savannah, North East, Bono East, Ahafo, Oti, and Bono. Tomatoes can also be cultivated in private homes in these regions. Therefore, it is not acceptable that people are not actively seeking solutions to their problems.

The tomato crisis in Ghana reflects the bigger issues facing the country’s agricultural sector. However, with smart policies and collaboration, this problem can turn into an opportunity to boost rural development, improve food security, and unlock Ghana’s agricultural potential.

Desmond John Beddy