Ghana loses US$36 million in 2 years due to ban on export of vegetables

BY: Salomey Appiah-Adjei

Ghana lost about US$36 million in foreign exchange as a result of a ban on some vegetable exports into the European Union (EU) market between 2015 and 2017, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has said.

According to the ministry, Ghana was making about US$18 million per annum out of the vegetable exports before the ban which was as a result of non-compliance with EU standards on the export of vegetables.

Nonetheless, the ministry has given assurances that revenue from the export of the vegetables will increase following the lifting of the ban from January 2018.

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, made this known when he officially announced the lifting of the ban by the EU in Accra on Wednesday, saying ‘’the ban will not be extended on expiration on December 31, 2017.”

The five vegetables which were affected by the ban included capsicum (chilies), solanum species-aubergines (egg plant), momordica (bitter gourd), luffa (vegetable sponge) and lagenaria (bottle gourd).

The EU banned the vegetables from Ghana after an audit undertaken by the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission detected a high number of interceptions of harmful organisms on some plant products from Ghana.

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How ban was reversed

In its quest to reverse the ban, the minister said urgent measures were put in place to ensure that Ghana complied with the conditions stipulated by the EU, including a task force to oversee the activities.

He mentioned a register of all exporters of plant and regulated plant products and their outgrowers, development of commodity specific and pest specific fact sheets for use by inspectors and importers as part of those measures. Other  measures included working with partners to improve and provide new inspection facilities and equipment at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).  

Additionally, he said technical training for plant inspectors with hands-on training to build their capacities were held, as well as field trials in locations considered the hotspots for the pests. The standard operating procedures were also enforced.

The lifting of the ban is a testimony to the urgency attached to addressing this problem, he said, and added that ”we need to also recognise the need to maintain the standards we have set for ourselves.”

The EU statement

 The EU in a statement issued in Accra last week said: “Since the beginning of the ban in October 2015, the Ghanaian authorities have taken significant corrective measures to improve the inspection and control system for plant health at exit points, particularly, at Kotoka International Airport.”

“The European Commission congratulates Ghana for reaching this important milestone and encourages Ghana to consolidate the upgraded system and to continue further improvements in the phytosanitary certification system to obtain full compliance with the EU phytosanitary requirements.”

As part of the efforts to ensure that Ghana did not face such setback again, Dr Akoto stated that the ministry would enforce all export procedures while initiating reforms to enhance exportation.

Some of the new reforms he mentioned included the commencement of an automation process of traceability system, establishment of electronic certification system and the restructuring of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD).

The ban

The EU, in October 2015, banned the export of those vegetables from Ghana to its market because of suspicions that the farm produce were infested with pests which were being introduced into the ecosystem of the EU.

That came to light after an audit team from the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety of the European  Commission visited Ghana in 2012.

After evaluation of the system of official controls and the certification of plants and plant products exported to the EU, the team identified a number of harmful organisms and made some recommendations to correct the situation.

As part of the recommendations, the team advised Ghana to provide adequate inspection facilities at the Kotoka International Airport, provide appropriate equipment for detection of pests and strengthen issuance of documentation. Unfortunately, the harmful organisms from Ghana’s vegetables into the EU increased after another assessment in 2015, an

indication that the proposed actions for corrections were not fully implemented, which eventually led to the emergency ban in October, 2015 of the vegetables which constituted a large proportion of vegetable exports.