Project to reduce harmful organisms in produce to EU market yields positive results

BY: Christian Akorlie, GNA
Participants during the project closure meeting
Participants during the project closure meeting

A project to deal with interceptions of vegetable produce from Ghana to the European Union (EU) market because of harmful organisms is said to have yielded results.

Specifically, the interventions have led to a reduction in interceptions of harmful organisms in commodities exported to the EU market from a peak of 330 in 2014 to 11 in 2020.

Dubbed the “Strengthening the horticulture sector in Ghana to enhance exports to the EU,” the project was in response to the challenges in the horticulture sector.

The project was led by the Centre for Agriculture Biosciences International (CABI), in collaboration with the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Ghana Association of Vegetable Exporters (GAVEX), Quarcoo Initiatives Co. Ltd (Quin Organics) and EOSTA B.V., aimed to solve sector-specific problems such as developing a functioning phytosanitary system, public-private partnership (PPP) and enhance market access.

It was co-funded by the Netherlands Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV).

The overall objective of the project was to increase the export of horticulture products from Ghana to the EU through phytosanitary systems development, good agricultural practices, proper business conduct, infrastructure development, compliance with international standards and knowledge sharing for value chain actors.

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Some successes

During a project closure meeting in Accra, stakeholders lauded the contribution of the project in reversing the trend of high interceptions and restoring the hope of farmers.

On key successes, a Project Manager at CABI, Mr Walter Hevi, said the project worked with the entire supply chain to establish an effective phytosanitary system, supported by regulated protocols and standard operating procedures, support to standardise sector specific phytosanitary survey and surveillance systems for the vegetable sector and promote good agricultural practices in the vegetable production chain.

He said it also worked to enhance compliance with production standards, implementation of management systems, availability of technical assistance for certification, infrastructure for sorting, inspection, packing and storage and relations based on proper business conduct between exporters and farmers, as well as support the development of a new supply chain of organically certified citrus produce from Quin Organics in Ghana to EOSTA B.V in the Netherlands

“The interventions have led to the development of training materials to enhance the education of producers, exporters and outgrowers, PPRSD inspectors, among others,” he said.

There were also trainings on Pest Management/GAPs which benefited 1,565 vegetable producers/exporters/outgrowers, PPRSD inspectors, agricultural extension agents in quarantine insect pests (FCM, whitefly, fruit fly, thrips, EFSB, Fall armyworm) management and phytosanitary measures.

The project also assisted two companies to obtain GlobalGAP certification and three other companies in GlobalGAP documentation.

On pest monitoring and surveillance, the project introduced the use of various insect sticky traps, delta traps and pheromones/lures, developed protocols for specific quarantine insect pests monitoring in the field using the traps, trained 52 GAVEX technical staff, selected PPRSD staff - selected students from University of Ghana, other vegetable producers in quarantine pest monitoring, data collection, scouting techniques, data analysis and reporting.

According to Mr Hevi, pests and diseases diagnosis by PPRSD procured various laboratory equipment for the PPRSD laboratory at Pokuase to aid in pest and disease diagnosis in the laboratory for field monitoring and data collections.

It also assisted to develop protocols and standard operating procedures for inspection for PPRSD staff.  

“These collaborations with stakeholders led to the European Commission ban imposed in Oct 2015 being lifted in January 2018,” he said.

The project also renovated and constructed packing facilities based on a 50 per cent contribution from interested GAVEX members.

So far, four packing facilities renovated to standard and are in use and five packing facilities currently under construction.

The West Africa Regional Coordinator of CABI, Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, urged the various stakeholders to use the experiences gained from the collaboration to influence the implementation of other projects to enhance success.


Background

The project was implemented through a multistakeholder approach involving the government, commercial farmers, exporters and Dutch importers to overcome some challenges of the horticulture sector.

Between 2011 and 2015, interceptions of Ghanaian vegetable produce in the EU market went up from 82 to a high of 291 in 2015.  The highest interceptions of 330 were in 2014.

During the period, Ghana’s export of vegetables fell from more than 4,000 tonnes in 2012 valued at over $2.5 million to just under 1,000 tonnes valued at $500,000.

In October 2015, the European Commission (EC) decided to ban five plant commodities from Ghana into the EU market until the end of December 2016.

The five banned vegetables were chilli pepper, luffa/ridge gourd, bitter gourd, egg plants and bottle gourd and the predominant harmful organisms intercepted between 2012 and 2015 were fruit flies, false coldling moth and white fly.

A follow-up audit was undertaken in September 2016 and a decision was taken by the EC to renew the ban by one year until December 2017.

It is estimated that Ghana lost 36 million dollars between 2015 and 2017 because of the ban.