In 2017, President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo declared a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ vision with the goal of getting the country to depend more on its abilities and resources than to look to foreign donors to sustain itself. The vision, among others, included a plan to industrialise the country, hinged on a campaign promise of creating a factory in every district; One District, One Factory, it has come to be known.
The Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Factory, the first of the initiative to have a sod cut in 2017 by the President is ready to come on stream. The factory located in the heart of one of Central Region’s historic towns, Ekumfi, will process pineapples into natural fruit juices for both local and international market with the product name, ‘Eku Juice’. It is expected to process close to 10 tonnes of pineapple into fruit juice an hour, and its size and volumes make it the largest natural fruit juice factory in West Africa.
ABC News’ Jonah Eledi and Senanu Dovlo, visited the town to explore the potential benefits of the factory and explore the sustainability and production cycle of the factory.
The company, during the tour of the facility, emphasized that they have done everything necessary since the sod was cut two years ago, for a smooth take off. With approval from the FDA expected in the coming days, the factory managers say all is set to commence production before the Christmas festivities.
Here is Operations Director of the Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Limited, Frederick Kobbyna Acquaah, providing insights into strategies adopted by the company;
“The project, we put it in three phases that were going to merge at a point and that is what we are seeing now. What we did initially was to begin to work on our raw materials, so we did a lot in terms of growing our raw materials mindful of the fact that pineapples cannot be conjured so you actually have to grow them and they have a long time for maturity. It is between 12 to 14 sometimes 16 months so we needed to keep an eye on it if our factory is to be sustainable.”
“The second one was to put up a building like where we are now and the third was to purchase machinery to process these pineapples.”
“So far we have done two successful full line test run. What I mean by that is that we have brought in water from our farms, dropped in our water bath and then run through the process till we have the juice in the box – One of which we did with the FDA and they have picked samples.”
“They have given us a few recommendations so you will see a few civil works around. Those are finishing touches that fell from the recommendations from the Foods and Drugs Authority”
Justifying the decision behind the product label, the Director of Operations of the company noted that it was the most convenient and market-friendly name the company could generate.
He highlighted, “We are not looking at Ghana as our only market, we are looking at international so although we have the Ekumfi Pure Juice, we also want another one that is a bit catchy. So if I want you to shorten or get me a catchword, if you have any other apart from Eku Juice, you can let me now.”
Even though the factory is yet to commence full operations, it has employed a number of people who are currently undergoing some form of training to be able to man the equipment and machinery.
Frederick Kobbyna Acquaah estimated that at full capacity, the factory is expected to run three shifts. Each shift, he hinted, will have about 150 persons directly working at every point in time. This excludes the farmhands and other casual workers who may be brought in to provide assistance or services.
The impact of the factory is already being felt across the town as well.
Communities, traditional leaders, individuals have partnered the company to grow and receive technical assistance in farming pineapples to be supplied to the company.
At one of the farms, manned by 20 men, formerly fishermen, the Director of Operations tells me they have cultivated almost 60 acres of land. These men, per their own account, had no farming knowledge or expertise in growing pineapples, but considered the venture more lucrative than fishing. The youth among them insist, the farming business gives them an opportunity to occupy themselves and avoid engaging in vices that may derail their growth and future prospects.
Mr Acquaah explained, “We put them to farming, gave them the training and then they are doing well. We gave them the necessary support and this that you see here, 20 acres they did this. So in a close season for fishermen for them there was no effect.”
He said the factory hopes to acquire more land and engage more people in cultivating plantations to hit their target of 15, 000 acres of pineapple plantation.
“Per our projection, we are doing 500 acres per annum but we are saying that we don’t just need this 5000 acres, we need triple of that 5000 acres because there will be time that we need to leave this farmland to move to another parcel so that we can grow there so that we can get this parcel to rejuvenate in terms of its soil nutrients,” he disclosed.
The multiplier effect of the Ekumfi Fruits and Juices factory is being felt in all facets of the lives of the people of the Central Region, not only Ekumfi. With the setting up of this fruits and juices factory, other investors have expressed interest in setting up factories using the by-products of the fruits factory as their raw materials.
From an initial plan of 3 uses for the by-product, more proposals have been received increasing the likelihood of having more than 5 entities being set up along the value chain, according to Mr Acquaah.
“We began our project by looking at 3 uses for our bye product. At the moment we are at 5 uses. Because we grow pineapples we need manure. So we have dedicated a part of our land for compost site. Our waste will go into compost that will be used as manure to grow more pineapples.”
“The second one is that we have a company that is prepared to use our bye product to prepare animal feed. So they are going to do feed that will go for cattle sheep and goats and pigs.”
“We hope to use this waste to generate energy as well and then to do ethanol.”
“Because of the volumes we are talking about, it might not even be mini-factories. Because we are processing 10 tonnes of pineapples per hour so it might not exactly be mini-factories. So we are going to give birth to a lot of factories in the Ekumfi area.”
The management pleaded with Ghanaians to support the operations of the company and help it succeed beyond the present generation as it has potential to boost development. They found it unpalatable for people to play political mischief with the investment.
Frederick Acquaah conceded that though they are private enterprise, they have received some government support but was quick to explain that it is a wholly private venture and the benefits came under the 1d1f advantage.