Vegetable farmers in Ghana producing for export and export companies are increasingly complying with quality and safety standards in line with international market requirements, a study by GhanaVeg has confirmed.
The study dubbed: “GhanaVeg Vegetable Business Opportunities in Ghana: 2014”, says this could be used as a good example for the domestic market.
GhanaVeg is an initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in line with efforts towards prioritizing commercial agriculture.
The study report was recently presented to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Fiifi Kwetey, in Accra, by the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Hans Docter.
The GhanaVeg report recommends that farmers would have to deal with pesticides in a more responsible manner, making use of the Integrated Pest Management and Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).
However, they need to be supported in this, it says.
It says in Ghana, smallholder farming households cultivate most of the traditional agricultural production; stating that about 90 per cent farmers have less than two hectares.
According to the study, ignorance about pesticide use and other Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) related issues was found to be highest among the many smallholder farmers.
It notes that though exporting companies of fruits and vegetables were implementing quality and safety assurance in various degrees and were increasingly thus proving to have the capacity to comply with international requirements, domestically a demand driven compliance to standards was not yet operational.
“The majority of farmers are practicing preventive/calendar spraying with often too high dosages and mixing of several pesticides together,” it notes.
“There is limited use of protection equipment during pesticide application, pre-harvest intervals are not adhered to and counterfeit, banned or unregistered pesticides are being used by farmers”.
It says most of the problems of excessive and improper use of pesticides result from the lack of knowledge or awareness among farmers, which in turn stems from lack of sufficient training, advice and position of information.
“The use of pesticides appears to be increasing as there is less availability of labour and overall labour costs are rising,” it states.
It observes that peril-urban farmers often had to make use of low quality or waste water sources from irrigation, which is likely to lead to microbial contamination.
It recommends that the introduction of traceability systems to be designed for smallholder farmers to assist in quickly identifying the source of problems related to food safety and plant health compliance.
“Opportunities should be explored for a national demand driven quality standard like the Ghana Green Label,” the report states.
It calls for the linking of companies to the Ghana Green Label Initiative and Test the Green Label on Applicability and Feasibility for both smallholder, and commercial farmers while they should set-up a mechanism where feedback from both farmers and consumers feed back into improving the Ghana Green Label.
The study also recommends that support for the larger vegetable producers with compliance to international Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards and for them to obtain global GAP certificate for export.
It calls for the training of farmer groups on responsible and reduced pesticide use and suggests the exploration for the development and the implementation of traceability systems for vegetable products.
The study suggests the connection of farmer groups to the responsible authorities to obtain clean water supplies for irrigation.