Business News of Thursday, 12 October 2017
Ghana is hopeful that the ban on vegetables export to the European Union (EU) will be lifted before the end of this year.
This is because, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA)says EU officials who completed another round inspection last month attested to progress made.
Speaking to Business Finder, Erasmus Ashun, Directorof Product Development of GEPA said “We were briefed after the EU officials’ checks and from all indication they said Ghana has done well. There were seven non-compliance issues and so far Ghana has been able to comply with five out of the seven while two have been partially complied with.”
European Union officials were in Ghana from September 12 to 21, 2017 to carry out another inspection after Ghana failed to pass a similar test in March this year. Ghana is, however, optimistic the ban will be lifted this time around.
Ashun indicated that two non-compliance issued partly dealt with revolves around administrative work and Ghana has since put in place the correct measures and evidence of that have been sent to the EU inspectors.
The ban on vegetables entering the EU market is to end in December and depending on how far Ghana has responded to the queries that were raised in the previous year the ban may either be continued or discontinued.
But Ashun was confident all things being equal, the ban would be lifted since the Authority together with Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have work tirelessly to resolve the concerns raised by the EU.
“The interim report about last month’s inspection is expected to be out by the end of this month. If the reports come, we are going to look at it and see if we have to make any input and respond to some of the questions that the EU officials might ask. Then they will incorporate our responses in the report, and then we will get the final report that will be presented to the EU for the decision to be taken.
What led to the ban
Ashun said the ban was put in place because of the inadequate inspections system of PPRSD which was supposed to inspect and prevent unwholesome export of fruits and vegetables.
He added that their inability to check those non-compliant products at exit points led to the ban because there were interceptions of consignment infected with insects.
Measures put in place to ensure ban is lifted
As part of measures to ensure the ban on vegetables is lifted, the number of inspectors at the port of exit especially at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has been increased substantially and inspectors are now running three shifts instead of two.
Also the number of offices for inspection of fruits and vegetables which used to be one has now been increased to five.
Ashun told Business Finder that a series of training programmes have been conducted to increase the capacities of the inspectors.
The services of five consultants and expects have also been engaged to be with the PPRSD inspectors 24 hours to make sure the right things are done.
He said one major challenge they had was with their traceability system which was to help them trace products to the farms they originated from. The system he said was fairly in place now.
Another thing that has been put in place is facilities for grind wood for packages of exports, which also saw the installation of thermometers at various points to capture the right temperatures for the grinding of wood.
In attempts to reduce the incidents of pests which was one of the concerns raised by EU, he said some scientists were contracted to do trials on how to control pests on the field and that those trials have been successful and the results have been developed into protocols.
He noted that the future plan was that the protocols would be developed into a curriculum that would be used at the Ghana export school to train all farmers wanting to export fruits and vegetables.
Registration of fruits and vegetables producers
Ashun said producers of fruits and vegetables are expected to register with GEPA and PPRSD as well as Agro Works in order to ensure that fruits and vegetables exported are of good quality and meets the laid down requirements PPSRD’s efforts.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture has formed a two man team from the University of Ghana who are working on the restructuring of PPRSD as an institution in order to for it to respond to the current demands of their work.
KwesiKorboe, Chief Technical Adviser and Chair of a Ministerial Taskforce that was put in place to evaluate and fix the situation said PPRSD as an institution has been putting measures in place to resolve EU’s concerns.
He said Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for PPRSD have been developed and made visible at all the ports for the public to be aware of what the procedures were when it comes to vegetables exportation.
He told Business Finder that several educational trainings and demonstration have been done with the fruits and vegetables farmers in order to help them adhere to good farming practices.
He added that during planting periods farmers are expected to notify PPRSD to visit their farms and advise them accordingly.