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Enforce stricter regulation, monitoring along agric value chain — Stakeholders

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Some vegetable species that have suffered the temporal suspension from the export market.
Some vegetable species that have suffered the temporal suspension from the export market.

The Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association of Ghana (VEPEAG), has said it has so far lost about US$250,000 due to the suspension on the export of capsicum (chillies), soladum (garden eggs), luffa (turia) and all leafy vegetables to the international market.

The Vice-President of VEPEAG, Mr Felix Kamassah, said in an interview that members had a lot of contracts but could not supply the produce and their buyers had to look elsewhere to get them.

“Now the buyers are saying they won’t pay the price again because they defaulted the supermarkets where they send their produce to. The ban affects us members and outgrowers.

“Some of the outgrowers are not happy because some of the produce / pepper were ready for shipment but they had to dry and sell in the open market,” he lamented.

The genesis
The Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) announced the indefinite suspension of the selected vegetables to the European Union (EU) from the list of exportable commodities from Ghana to the international market on June 1, 2019.

The Director of the PPRSD, Dr Felicia Ansah-Amprofi, in a letter dated May 23, 2019, which the Daily Graphic has a copy, said the intended ban had become necessary due to the high level of local interceptions at the exit points after the EU had lifted its ban.

She said last year, there were 162 internal interceptions, while external notifications were 53 due to harmful organisms, adding that from the beginning of this year till May 23, 2019, internal interception by the PPRSD officers had risen to 120 and 20 for external notifications, and that was alarming.

The value chain
Mr Kamassah blamed the perennial ban / suspension on the lack of education of all players within the value chain on acceptable guidelines.

  “The guidelines should not remain in the hands of the exporters. It should also go to the farmers. They should not look at only the export but also production base because if there is no product, there is no export.

“If the farmer is aware and should produce good vegetables, I don’t think that if the exporter is exporting he will have a problem. We will continue training our farmers on the guidelines they are talking about to avoid such suspension,” he said.
The National Coordinator at the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology Africa (OFAB), Dr Richard Ampadu Ameyaw, said the perennial ban had a lot of impact on the agric sector and the economy generally, from the value chain perspective, although long term.

He said if the producers produced and there was no market for it, then it affected their incomes and livelihoods, and individuals who needed the vegetables would resort to imports, likewise government.

“The nation will then need to import the vegetables from elsewhere and we will be creating markets for people outside. If it continues and the citizenry develops a taste for the imported vegetables just as rice, they will refuse to take the local one and you will see that we will end up destroying the agric / vegetables sector,” he lamented.

Dr Ampadu said the only remedy to the perennial ban would be to enforce phytosanitary regulations.

“The rules are there and should be enforced. Enforcement agencies must begin to crack the whip and people will fall in. Because people want the money in the fastest and the quickest way, they want to just do anything and take to the market,” he said.

The Executive Director of the Peasant Farmers Association (PFAG), Ms Victoria Adongo, said naturally, smallholder farmers would lose some income because some exporters bought from them.

“It’s a bit difficult but a good idea. It is better to take steps to limit the harmful organisms in those vegetables than to wait for it to go outside and face an international ban, which normally takes a longer time,” she said.

She said exporters were being encouraged to liaise with outgrowers to work on trying to reduce the number of harmful organisms in the vegetables, unlike initially when the exporter went to farmers to aggregate and export.

Past bans
The European Union (EU) lifted a ban it placed on vegetables export such as chilli pepper and bottle gourds from Ghana about one and a half years ago after satisfying itself with the country’s phytosanitary requirement.

The perennial ban the EU places on vegetable exports from Ghana comes at a huge cost to the country. More than US$36 million in foreign exchange was reported to have been lost as a result of a ban on vegetables between 2015 and 2017.

Records from MOFA show that Ghana made about 18 million per annum from vegetable export before the ban which was as a result of non-compliance with EU standards on the export of vegetables.
PPRSD assessment
Meanwhile, five firms in the vegetable export business have received approval to resume trading in the suspended vegetable commodities on the international market.

The firms, namely Joekopan Farms, AB Farms, A Mahli Farms, Dhillon Farms and Shrighan Farms, were given the approval after they satisfied all the conditions set by the PPRSD.

Consequently, the firms have also been directed to source the commodities, including capsicum (chillies), soladum (garden eggs) and luffa (turia) only from 13 out of the 70 inspected farms by the PPRSD in anticipation of the removal of the suspension on the commodities in the coming days.