The fruits and vegetable industry has huge prospects to widen the country’s foreign exchange earnings, Dr. Maxwell Billah, an entomologist has said.
Dr. Billah, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana has therefore called on the government and her development partners to invest by providing adequate research funding into that sector.
He said the nation lost US$36 million during the European Union ban on the export of fruits and vegetables into the European market between 2015 and 2017.
The ban was placed on Ghana basically due to disease and insect infestation in the fruits and vegetable sectors.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sidelines of an agriculture fair held at Techiman in the Bono East Region, Dr. Billah underlined the need for the nation to take proactive and pragmatic measures to control disease and insect infections in the sector to enable the country to produce improved yields that meet international standard.
HortiFresh, a programme supported by the Embassy of the Royal Netherlands which prioritises commercial agriculture organised the fair that brought together input dealers, service providers, exporters, fruits farmers and certification bodies.
The fair, among other objectives, sought to create linkages between fruits and vegetable farmers and service providers, including marketers, processors and researchers in the fruits and vegetable sector.
Dr. Billah mentioned the lack of pack houses, storage and irrigation facilities as well as direct government funding for research work as major setbacks in the sector, saying, fruits and vegetables farmers ought to be provided with relevant information to enable them to improve on production.
He said it was unfortunate perishable crops like fruits and vegetables rot in the farms during bumper harvest due to lack of storage facilities, hence, the need for the nation to prioritise the sector, add value and improve on packaging and branding for export.
Mrs. Cecilia Kagay-Agyemang, the Bono East Regional Director of Agriculture said the region was doing well in the production of fruits and vegetables, particularly mangoes and watermelon, and called for greater collaboration between all actors in the sector.
She lauded the implementation of the government’s flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PfFJs) programme in the region, saying the programme had brought great relief to farmers and subsequently improved on food production in the area.
Mrs. Kagay-Agyemang said the government’s fertilizer and seed subsidy had enabled most farmers to engage in commercial farming to improve their socio-economic livelihoods.
Under the PfFJs, many farmers in the region had formed groups and engaged in village savings, which had empowered them to easily access loans from financial institutions to increase their farm sizes and also expand their general economic activities.
Mrs. Kagay-Agyemang said the government had also been proactive in combating fall army worm, saying last season the worms could not cause any major devastating effects on maize farms in the region.
She reminded the PfFJs programme was still in progress and advised farmers who had still not registered to do so to benefit from inputs and government subsidies to expand their farming activities for higher productivity and improved quality of yields.
Mrs. Sheila Assibey-Yeboah, the Programme Manager of HortiFresh, said a similar fair was held in the Kintampo enclave, and expressed the hope actors in the fruits and vegetable sector would collaborate to enhance prospects in the sector.
HortiFresh, she explained, worked for improved productivity in the vegetable and fruit sectors by facilitating more efficient markets, including linking producers and other value chain operators as well as improving the business climate and professionalizing the value chain for vegetable production, export and consumption.