Mr George Boahene Oduro speaking at the workshop for stakeholders in the horticultural sector
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, in collaboration with the European Business Organisation – Ghana (EBO-GH), has initiated a programme to strengthen the growth of horticulture and the export of products to the European market.
The programme, known as the Trade Related Assistance and Quality Enabling Programme (TRAQUE), is funded by the European Union (EU).
It focuses on the comparative economic advantages of Ghanaian agricultural and horticultural exports to the EU.
In line with the programme, a workshop was organised in Accra yesterday for stakeholders in the sector, including exporters and producers of fruits, vegetables, flowers and decorative leaves.
At the opening of the workshop, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Mr George Boahene Oduro, said government was committed to developing the agricultural sector and urged farmers, processors and exporters to take advantage of opportunities presented by the TRAQUE.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and there is an open market for it. Unfortunately, farmers in Ghana are very poor,” he said.
He said the government was currently working with the EU to review the ban on the export of five vegetables, including chilly, garden eggs and pepper, from Ghana to the European market since October 2015.
An audit to ensure that the banned vegetables currently meet the international standards in terms of quality and other criteria has been met.
“We have taken steps to address the issues. We have to get the ban lifted this year because it is leading to unemployment, affecting earnings of farmers and exporters and foreign inflows,” Mr Oduro said.
On the part of the government, the minister said it would promote research, funding and support the agricultural sector to ensure that farmers would meet the specifications of the international market.
In a remark, the Executive Director of EBO-GH, Mr Nick Van Staalduinen, said there were numerous opportunities that Ghanaian farmers and exporters were not taking advantage of.
“We have to be creative by not doing what we are used to doing. We can do farming in such a way that we can produce in the off season period and also explore external markets,”he added.
He said exporters and farmers could also make a lot of money by exporting banana leaves, which is in demand in the European market.
“There are decorative banana leaves, dried banana leaves for packaging. It is now becoming fashionable in Europe to follow African trends.”
He said to find out what would meet the needs of the European market for products from Ghana, a research had been conducted and the final report was being shared with Ghanaian exporters and processors to ensure they understood the opportunities out there.
A consultant who worked on the export market report for EBO-GH, Professor Ismail Bin Yahya, called for a census on Ghana’s agricultural sector, since the last one was carried out in 1986.
He said during the study, it was found that Ghana had not been able to strengthen production capacity to be able to meet the demand of suppliers in the agricultural export sub-sector.
He was of the view that as the country was unable to meet standards for the international market, especially the EU Market, development partners should help Ghana to develop its agricultural sub-sector.
“The European buyer is interested in the quality and origin of the product; if it is organic or less chemicals were used to produce it, and the appearance and taste of the product,” he said.
Prof. Yahya said there was the need to increase investment in infrastructure and for inter-agency cooperation to better help exporters.
“The private and public sectors must work together to promote Ghana’s agricultural sector. Although they work individually, they must work towards a collective goal,” he added.