High demand for dried tropical fruits in EU - But SMEs capacity issues threaten supply

A project has been launched to turn Ghana’s post harvest losses in the fruit industry into a major cash inflow for the state through jobs in the value chain and foreign exchange from exports.

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Despite holding a huge potential, Ghana is unable to compete favourably among its peers on the international dry fruit market due to a combination of factors, a recent study has found.

These factors include challenges to meet minimum required volumes for exports, uneasy access to finance, inability for businesses to invest and grow, issues with meeting EU buyer requirements, and the difficulty for local SMEs to compete with multinationals.

The obstacles have subsequently resulted in marginal growth and low contribution to national output. To help reverse the trend, various institutions and stakeholders have come out with a number of initiatives that are aimed at inspiring farmers and businesses along the value chain to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the market.

One of those initiatives is the launch of the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) Ghana Dried Fruits Project in Accra.

Sectors

As an agency of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CBI works towards sustainable sectors in developing countries and upcoming markets by supporting SMEs to grow their exports.

At the launch of the project, the Manager of the CBI Programme, Afke van der Woude, stated that the CBI would support Ghana's dried fruits sector towards becoming more productive and sustainable in the next four years.

He said the goal was to grow dried fruits exports from Ghana to the European Union market, and to create job opportunities for youth in the sector. “CBI will be coaching a group of front-runner SMEs in improving the production of dried fruits, meeting EU market standards, and by introducing them to international buyers and importers,” she said.

“Also, companies which are interested in starting fruit processing will be provided with information and advice. Moreover, CBI wants to address the challenges the sector is facing in Ghana, such as supply chain inefficiencies, issues with raw material inputs and gaps in skills and technology,” she added.

As a result, she said, solutions would be sought in the local market to create job opportunities for Ghanaian youth in the sector, while CBI would work with educational institutions to forge linkages between recent graduates and companies in the sector.

CBI will be partnering with the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) on this project.

Netherland’s commitment

The Head of Economic Department at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, Bram van Opijnen, said the Netherlands government was committed to support Ghana to develop its dried tropical fruit industry to become a major foreign exchange earner.

He said the focus of the Netherlands was to help build long term relationships between Ghanaian firms and their international counterparts in an attempt to create sustainable jobs in the country.

“It is for this reason that launching the CBI Programme in Ghana today was very important because the project would help support and strengthen the relationship between Ghanaian and Dutch manufacturers,” he said.

He added that the CBI project was part of a larger endeavor of the Netherlands in Ghana to support growth and create job opportunities for youth in the horticulture sector.

GEPA’s support

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Dr Afua Asabea Asare, commended CBI for launching its operations in Ghana to help support the tropical fruits industry.

She said GEPA was ready to provide the needed support for the CBI project to be successful. She explained that the CBI project was a welcomed opportunity to deal with the challenges of post-harvest losses affecting farmers in the country.

Post-harvest losses

A representative of Ghana Dried Fruit Sector, Samuel Nii Quarcoo, who expressed excitement about the CBI Ghana Dried Fruits Project Launch, said farmers in the country were still grappling with the phenomenon of post-harvest losses.

However, he said, the surest method to reduce post-harvest losses was through drying of the produce for the market. “Until recently, dried fruit for exports have been the preserve of just a few players in the industry but in the quest to take advantage of the $6.5 billion market many stakeholders have made an entry into the dried tropical fruit business,” he added.

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