NewsWest AfricaAgribusiness: Ghana to miss $5 billion exports earnings target


Posted on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 16:32

Agribusiness: Ghana to miss $5 billion exports earnings target

By Dasmani Laary in Accra

File photo©ReutersGhana could lose billions from non-traditional exports following the country's food and agriculture ministry's ban on vegetable exports to the European Union market.

The ban is likely to affect the $5 billion target the Ghana export promotion authority estimated non-traditional exports could fetch for the West African country in 2019.

This unfortunate situation could no longer be tolerated by the ministry

The ministry's decision to halt Ghanaian exports to the EU market follows interception of a number of fruit and vegetables with harmful organisms and incomplete documentation.

The ban, which affects capsicum, solanum species- aubergines, momordica, Luffa and Lagenaria (gourd family), will remain in force until all issues on interceptions raised by the Food and Vegetable Office of the European Commission are addressed, officials said.

Ghana's food and agriculture minister, Fiifi Kwetey told journalists at a news conference, the plant protection and regulatory directorate of the ministry would also ban exporters of fresh vegetables sourced from unregistered farms.

The sanction is seen as a big blow to the West African country's vegetables sector, which exports some 4,000 metric tonnes to the EU every year and employs hundreds of youths along the value chain.

This is also likely to affect Ghana's export promotion authority's target of $2.6 billion in non-traditional export earnings for 2015.

Ghana had expected an increase of about 3.4 per cent from the $2.51 billion recorded in 2014.

The food ministry expressed fear the development would taint Ghana's image and endanger the export business.

Unscrupulous practices

"This unfortunate situation could no longer be tolerated by the ministry," Kwetey said, warning that the government would not allow the "unscrupulous practices to destroy a very promising export sector."

The Ghana Association of Vegetable Exporters has hinted it may be forced to lay off some workers.

But Ghana Export Promotion Authority chief executive officer, Gideon Kwame Boye Quarcoo is quoted as saying the ban should be a wakeup call to the nation and for all exporters to make sure they go through the right processes before exporting their products.

The interception of harmful organisms in some vegetable products meant that the exporter did not follow standards testing requirements, an international expert on quality testing, Neil Ferdinand, observed.

The EU's interception has created a bad perception for products exported from Ghana to the EU markets, he said, and advised that tests ought to done in accordance with international best practice, "so that one milligram in the EU will mean one milligram in Ghana".

Ghana is among countries with the highest number of interceptions on fruit and vegetables exported to the EU, according to the European Union Notification System for Plant Health Interceptions.

Notification was published by the EU on okra, yams and bananas from Ghana for excessive treatment with chemicals in 2012.

The level of interceptions peaked in 2014, where 332 interceptions were recorded due to the detection of thrips and moulds especially on chillies and as many as 24 interceptions due to incomplete documentations.

At the end of May, 2015, 32 interceptions, due to incomplete documentation had been recorded, compared to 24 interceptions in 2014, while interceptions due to presence of harmful organisms reached 167 compared to 332 recorded in 2014.

Industry players had warned of a looming ban and urged stakeholders to take preventive and remedial actions to avert it.

But many Ghanaian exporters are faced with the challenge not owning production fields and source from smallholder vegetable farmers, who lack knowledge on export regulations.

The farmers have traditionally produced for the local markets, which are not as strict as the EU market.

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