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Blue Skies to hit American market

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The United States Mission in Ghana is putting finishing touches to a pact with local fruit processing company to start exporting fresh cuts to the US market.

Blue Skies, which already exports to the European Union, a low hanging fruit scenarios to start exporting cut fresh fruits such as pineapples, mangoes and papaya to United States under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which Ghana is yet to take full advantage of.

Although the provision has been available post-2000 under which Ghana and 38 other African countries can export about 6,400 items to the US without regard to quotas and customs duties, Ghana has not been able to take advantage of it as much as it wants to.

The Agricultural Counselor (US Department of Agriculture) at the Embassy, Mr Kurt Seifarth, told a section of the media in Accra on October 31 that getting Blue Skies to export to the US market was part of support the US mission in Ghana was offering to increase Ghana’s exports under AGOA.

Ghana has not been able to take full advantage of the AGOA initiative, which is meant to boost trade between the US and eligible countries.

In the early stages, Ghana made frantic efforts to export garments and other textile products to the US but that success story was short-lived, as local companies could not meet orders, specifications and standards on some occasions.

Between January and March this year, Ghana has exported a total US$580,000 worth of items to the United States under AGOA. This compares to the US$14.46 million exported for the same period last year.

On yearly basis, Ghana exported a little over US$2 million under AGOA in 2010; over US$414 million in 2011 (boosted by oil exports) and US$16.98 million in 2012.

The numbers (excluding oil exports) mean that Ghana has to redouble its efforts at taking advantage of the AGOA initiative.

But Mr Seifarth said since Blue Skies already exports to the EU, it could be supported to meet standards in the US also.

Blue Skies has been facing challenges with raw material supplies from Ghana as inadequate or expensive financing for the agricultural sector has compelled horticultural fruit growers to pull out of the industry.

As such, Blue Skies, located at Nsawam which until recently was noted for its large volumes of pineapple cultivation, has to look to offshore sources such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Egypt for the supply of not less than 50 per cent of most of its raw materials.

This month, the company will be air-lifting 120 tonnes of mangoes a week from Brazil for 10 weeks. The company, which self produces a small percentage of its raw material requirements, is considering a large scale pineapple plantation to maximise the use of its machinery and equipment.

The exports to the US could help the company to recall the over 400 employees it recently laid off due to factory capacity under-utilisation.

By Samuel Doe Ablordeppey/Graphic Business/Ghana

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