Government to monitor operations of horticulture value-chain 

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture has announce that government has put measures in place to ensure that value chain horticulture stakeholders work strictly to produce high value products to meet international standards.

As part of the measures, he said regulatory bodies would strictly monitor all the farming processes from acquisition of seedlings, field practices, harvesting, storage, packaging, and to the point of exit.

Dr Akoto speaking at a Press briefing in Accra on Wednesday explained that new measures had been introduced as a result of consistent rejection of vegetables earmarked for exports at the local exits due to non-compliance to production protocol.

Giving details of issues that had resulted in the indefinite suspension of export of vegetables namely Capsicum, Solanum, Luffa and Leafy Vegetables, the Minister said in the first five months of 2019, there were 120 rejects of vegetables earmarked for export at the local level while 20 rejects were recorded at the European market.

“If in the whole of 2018, there were 141 rejects at the local exits and 53 rejects at the European markets then the situation is serious. So we need to proactively institute these measures to rectify this alarming situation,’ he said.

Dr Akoto who described this as a disturbing development, noted that it was a failure and indictment on all key stakeholders in the horticulture sector.

He said there were three points to trade – at the farm level, pack houses and exporting level, which demanded for exporters to inspect and certify produces before they export.

However, he said, exporters failed to properly operationalize the self-inspection mechanism.

He disclosed that the Plant Protection and Regulatory Service Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry had employed 2,700 additional staff who would be trained and assigned to every exporter to inspect the value chain right from the acquisition of seeds to nursery and packaging to ensure their operations met the regulatory standards before authorizations are given to them.

Currently, there are 1,500 exporters of vegetables in the country, however, only 100 are very active exporting about 80 per cent of the total vegetables exported and generating about 20 million dollars annually for the state, the Minister said.

“We will be very strict with how we give licenses to them at the pack houses. We will give licenses to only a few that we feel we can control and monitor and ensure that sorting and packaging are done according to the regulatory standards,” he said.

Dr Akoto noted the exportation of organism infested vegetables onto the international market had very serious implications on the Ghanaian economy and its international image.

“The rejections are a threat to the success of the greenhouse technology module being rolled out under the Planting for Food and Jobs policy initiative and it directly undermines the objective of promoting entrepreneurship in high value vegetable production and marketing,” he said.

Cocoa, he said, currently, generated about 2.5 billion dollars for the state every year, however, the government through its ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ project, had put measures in place to let cash crops including rubber, cashew, coffee, mango, and shea generate same amount of revenue each for the state.

“Therefore, we want to address the fundamental economic structure of the country with regards to Agriculture and anything that will destroy it should be squashed and uprooted,” he said.

The Minister said the suspension was temporal and measures had been put in place to resolve the situation possibly within a month for the exporters to run on their businesses.

Dr Felicia Ansah-Amprofi, the Director of PPRSD advised exporters to clean and keep their produces neat devoid of organisms at the pack house before packaging for export.

She said at many times, the exporters failed to sort out the organism infested vegetables at the pack house before putting them up for export, saying, “Packaging such bad looking produces for exports, is not export, and even on our local markets, who would like to buy them.”

She said the Ministry had implemented measures to pilot the e-quality assurance vegetable production system for export, and upgrade the manual traceability system of vegetables into a full electronic system.

Source: GNA

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