Myafricatoday.net can report that tension is brewing in the tomato trading space within the Greater Accra Region.
This follows a litany of accusations levelled against the Chairman of the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association (GNTTTA), Mr Eric Tuffuor, by various tomato groups in markets including CMB, along the Agbogbloshie Railway, Kingsway, Accra Brewery Limited Avenue, Farisco, Makola, Dome, Mallam Atta, Ashaiman and Tema—all in the Greater Accra Region.
Addressing a press conference in Accra yesterday to break their silence, the tomato traders who were wearing red arm bands and head gears disclosed that over the last couple of years, Mr Tuffuor has arrogated to himself the Chairmanship position of the Greater Accra Tomato Traders Association.
And using this position, the traders alleged that Mr Tuffuor visits tomato traders in CMB, along the Agbogbloshie Railway, Kingsway, Accra Brewery Limited Avenue, Farisco, Makola, Dome, Mallam Atta, Ashaiman and Tema markets and allegedly extort monies from them.
According to them, during one of his visits, Mr Tuffuor approached them and claimed he needed an amount of GH¢30,000 to help him secure documents on behalf of members of the Greater Accra Regional Tomato Traders Association from the Ministry of Trade which would give legal backing to tomato traders to share a routine schedule for the sale of the tomatoes in CMB and Agblogbloshie markets.
Continuing, the visibly worried tomato traders recounted that last year (2019), Mr Tuffuor allegedly succeeded in collecting GH¢500.00 from each group of tomato traders within the various tomato markets in the Greater Accra Region to execute the above agenda.
According to them, Accra CMB has thirteen (13) tomato traders groups with Agblogbloshie market having ten (10) while Makola has six (6) including other groups in the tomato trading space in the whole of the Greater Accra Region.
“All these tomato groups put together one can imagine how much money Mr Tuffuor managed to raise from the traders. But painfully and till date we have not receive or seen even a single document from him,” they said.
Meanwhile, the traders pointed out that their checks have revealed that Mr Tuffuor did not succeed in securing that document and that when they confronted him for the refund of their monies he got furious which situation was creating tension and confusion between the various tomato groups and Mr Tuffuor.
That notwithstanding, the traders stated that Mr Tuffuor “even sometimes if he wants to organise meetings in the various tomato trading markets in Accra under the Greater Accra Regional Tomato Traders Association demands to GH¢1,000.00 for his transportation before he can facilitate the meeting.
“And when we fail to raise this money for him he will not show up for the meeting,” they said.
They also accused Mr Tuffuor of being the brain behind the recent increment in prices of cartons of tomatoes imported from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, saying that the increment has seen of the traders incur huge debts since many of them are working with bank loans, and more especially when they do not get a ready market for their products.
In December last year, the traders recounted that they were informed that Mr Tuffuor travelled from Ghana to Burkina Faso to have a secret meeting with the various tomato farmers, stakeholders and language interpreters at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, without the knowledge of members of the local association.
The traders indicated that during that meeting, Mr Tuffuor was reported to have advised the farmers not to continue to sell two-in-one per carton of tomatoes at the cost of 75,000 CFA which is equivalent to GH¢735.00 to traders from Ghana, with the claim that such a transaction enabled Ghanaian traders to rake in more profit at the expense of their colleague farmers in Ouagadougou.
According to the traders, their sources in Burkina Faso told them that Mr Tuffuor explained to the tomato farmers in Ouagadougou that in Ghana tomato farmers indeed sell one-in-two per cartoon of tomatoes to traders and not two-in-one per carton of tomatoes as it was done in Ouagadougou.
The traders mentioned that they were also informed by their sources that Mr Tuffuor initiated such a move so that famers could share with him and their language interpreters in Burkina Faso proceeds they gained from the bounty sale of one-in-two carton of tomatoes “but interestingly according to our sources the interpreters were reported to have vehemently disagreed with Mr Tuffuor.”
According to the traders, following Mr Tuffuor’s discussion with tomato farmers in Ouagadougou, the farmer price for the purchase of tomatoes in the international community has increased drastically, which has worsened their business, rendering their capital investment into serious debts.
“We cannot this time round sit idle for Mr Eric Osei Tuffuor who is not even a recognised member of our association and his associates to be cheating us. We do not want Mr Tuffuor again to be parading himself as the Chairman of the Greater Accra Tomato Traders Association; we are telling him that he should go and lead as the Chairman of Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association period!” the traders warned.
They stated that the CMB Tomato Traders Association with 265 members has a routine schedule for the sale of tomatoes but Mr Tuffuor and his cronies have managed to create artificial shortages in the system.
According to them, the idea behind the schedule was to bring sanity into the system and to minimise the situation of tomatoes getting rotten in the markets as result of over importation.
They also indicated that based on an extensive survey they conducted, they were aware of the number of tomato cartons the country needed within a day, across all regions and markets, hence the schedule will in no way create shortages.
To this end, they called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the regional minister to help ensure that the agreed schedule was maintained and complied with so as to push intruders away for them to have their peace and carry out their businesses without any confrontations.
The traders are extremely frustrated with the situation and they feel that they have been neglected by stakeholders. They claimed that three people have already died this year due to pressures associated with the business.
They also threatened to commit suicide if government doesn’t come to their aid.
“We are wallowing in debts so we beg Nana Akufo-Addo to help us because we are dying. If care is not taken, by the time we return from Ouagadougou on our next trip, if you pick100 people you will only get 10 because the rest of the 90 will drink poison and die because all our money is gone to the extent that we have to borrow money from interpreters before we can do business,” the traders pleaded.
However, when contacted via telephone on Wednesday, February 11, 2020 to get his side of the story, Mr Tuffuor vehemently denied all the allegations against him by the traders.
According to him, it was not true that he collected GH¢500 from each group of tomato traders within the various tomato markets in the Greater Accra Region and failed to use the money for its purpose.
He explained that the money collected from the various groups of traders was used to organise a national conference for various associations of the tomato traders across the country and that such money was not even collected by him personally.
He went on to say that the national conference, which was held in Kumasi on December 2019 and attended to by twenty-two delegates from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, was aimed at discussing the way forward on how to bring sanity and transparency to the tomato business in both Ghana and Burkina Faso.
He further denied informing tomato farmers in Ouagadougou to stop selling their products to traders from Ghana in two-in-one per carton of tomatoes, saying that the farmers in Ouagadougou have taken their own decision to adopt that selling method.
“I am not benefiting from the sale of tomatoes from farmers in Ouagadougou to Ghanaians,” he stressed.
He added that the allegations by the traders that he has arrogated to himself the Chairmanship position of the Greater Accra Tomato Traders Association was also not true, saying that he is performing his task as the recognised Chairman of the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association.
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