The Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) has introduced butternut squash, a fruit as a new export product from Ghana.
Butternut, belongs to a group of crops collectively called cucurbit (a member of the gourd family, which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), it is technically a fruit because it contains seeds. Cut into its pale, yellow-beige hard skin one would discover a vibrant flesh that is much denser than that of its relatives.
The fruit can be roasted and toasted and also pureed for soup or mashed into casseroles, bread, muffins and also used in many ways as potatoes can be used.
Experts say it is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, low in fat, and delivers an ample dose of dietary fibre, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice.
It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.
The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spin bifida.
EDIF with the mandate to develop products for export, has embarked on a pilot of butternut squash at the request of EDIF’s strategic marketing partners, Minor, Weir and Willis based in the United Kingdom (UK).
The request came about because the fruit cannot be planted in winter and has so far been successful on a 15-acre land each at Gomoa Fete Kakraba in the Central Region, and Nkoranza in the Brong Ahafo Region and a 30-acre land in Somanya in the Eastern bringing the total area under cultivation to 60 acres.
At a press briefing in Accra on Thursday, Nana Yeboa-Kodie Asare II, Member of EDIF Board, said the Fund was supporting a pilot production of butter squash for export to the UK, and other crops to be piloted also on request were sweet potatoes and melons.
Nana Asare said it was the first time that the Fund had secured a market even before the produce was ready and called on all and sundry to get on board.
He explained that the seeds were hybrid and imported from South Africa and to maintain standards, interested farmers would have their farms certified by the importing country.
After the certification farmers would be supervised by a nucleus group of farmers, who are already participating to ensure that the best practices are undertaken.
This is to ensure that supply does not exceed demand and interested farmers would be supported by EDIF.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of EDIF, Agyabeng Antwi-Agyei said EDIF decided to invest in the product to diversify the country’s non-traditional export base and help to increase its export earnings.
He noted that revenue from butternut (which has a 90-day maturity period) did not come close to cocoa and that about GH¢370,000 had been invested (from seedlings to export destination) but could not disclose how much was expected in revenue until after six out of nine containers shipped last Tuesday had arrived in the UK.
“The yields are just great. In confidence, invest in it and you will never lose” he said and added that a socio economic impact of the pilot project was to provide means of livelihood in short and medium term to participating farmers and create jobs to reduce employment.
After the pilot phase of the project, EDIF would seek to increase the production by involving more farmers for production and export of butternut squash in large quantities for the European market and also develop the local market.
“All indicators show that butternut squash project will be successful,” he added.