Ghana's poultry industry will soon benefit from the pioneering efforts of local company, Tragrimacs, in the cultivation and processing of sunflower. The company expects that Ghana will make significant short- and long-term savings through local production of sunflower, and earn significant revenues from exports to other West African markets.
Although soil and weather conditions favour its cultivation, commercial production of sunflower has not been undertaken in Ghana until recently. Ghana imports over US$2 million of sunflower oil and $1 million of sunflower cake every year. The major consumers of sunflower oil are the local fish canneries, whilst the poultry industry accounts for the sunflower cake. Local production of fish has reduced significantly and currently, most of the fish consumed by domestic and industrial users is imported. With the high prices of fishmeal the main protein source for poultry in Ghana poultry farmers are pleased that a cheaper substitute will soon be available.
Farmers are also excited about the superior nutritional properties of sunflower. With a protein content of 67%, sunflower cake compares favourably with other protein sources used in Ghana 52% for soybean, 58% for fishmeal and 33% for groundnut cake. The expected growing demand for sunflower cake is also hoped to increase jobs and incomes in sunflower growing and processing.
Growing the best varieties
Over the last few years, Tragrimacs in collaboration with researchers from the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute and the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Ghana has conducted tests on eight different varieties of hybrid sunflower seeds to identify varieties most suitable for local production. Two varieties, PAN 7351 and PAN 7355, were eventually selected. With support from the Ministry of Agriculture and some district assemblies, groups of farmers were trained around Ghana to grow the plant. Issah Sulemana, Director of Tragrimacs, believes that the novelty of commercial production will enable farmers and consumers to get the best from the sunflower plant. "It is new in Ghana," he said, "so there has not been a pest or disease build-up over the years. Farmers can concentrate all their efforts on growing the crop, and poultry farmers and other end-users can be assured of products whose quality has not been degraded by pests or pesticides."
A promising start
The Ministry of Local Government is encouraging rural farmers to produce and process sunflower. The Dormaa district of the Brong Ahafo region, which also produces the bulk of Ghana's chicken and eggs, is becoming a major sunflower-producing centre. Some district and municipal chief executives there are providing financial assistance to farmers. Kpando district in the Volta region is reported to have recently sold 9.3 tonnes to the accredited local buyer for processing, and district coordinator Kofi Akordor has expressed satisfaction with the payment arrangements made for producers of the crop. Processing facilities are being established at production centres, and it is expected that by the end of the year, Ghana would be well on the way to providing the poultry industry with all its requirements.
Plans for further expansion
Mr Sulemana believes that with the availability of sunflower cake on the local market, both the feed and poultry industries now have a cheaper, easily available alternative to fishmeal. He commented, "Poultry farmers will soon be able to reduce their expenditure on fishmeal, which is a sizeable portion of their total budget, by at least 30%. We are now expecting a massive increase in demand for sunflower cake, and we are preparing to satisfy it. Very soon, locally produced sunflower cake will be all over the market. We will soon be preparing to export to the West African market."