Just last month (September), the EU announced a temporary freeze on the export of some vegetables and fruits from Ghana to its market.
This was based on issues of their sanitary and phyto-sanitary ? bacterial/ pesticide contamination which had compromised their quality.
Inappropriate agricultural practices in vegetable production, harvesting, handling and storage had been blamed for the serious phyto-sanitary issues ? making it difficult for home-grown vegetables to pass the quality test.
The resultant effect of this has led to a dip in Ghana?s vegetable exports to Europe in the 1990s, from between 30 a\nd 40 tonnes daily to the current four to five tonnes a day.
The nation?s main vegetable exports include chili pepper, okra, bitter gourd, eggplants and other Asian vegetables.
Chili pepper has been the dominant commodity with its share of the annual exports to the United Kingdom (UK), put between 1,500 and 3,000 tonnes – valued at 3.7 million dollars.
Vegetable exports to the EU which stood at about seven million dollars annually had declined by almost 50 per cent since 2008.
The main reason being that substantial number of exporters are unable to meet the standard phyto-sanitary requirements.
The inability to export vegetables to the EU had not only affected foreign exchange inflows to the country, but the incomes of farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain.
Vegetable production for both domestic use and export, provides income to a large number of people, including small-holder farmers, retailers, haulers, storage operators, exporters and others.
It is for this reason that the challenges facing the sector need to be tackled with some urgency.
The Reverend Dr. Hans Adu-Dapaah, immediate past Director of the Crop Research Institute (CRI), re-echoed the importance of vegetable and fruit production to the socio-economic development of Ghana, when he addressed the 15th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Ghana Institute of Horticulturists (GhIH), at Fumesua.
He cited the huge potential to provide not only employment to the people, especially the youth, but improved incomes to farmers, apart from raking in more foreign exchange.
It is against this backdrop that the collaboration between the GhanaVeg, CRI and GhIH towards promoting research and partnerships in the vegetable sector is commendable and refreshing.
GhanaVeg is bringing researchers and vegetable sector players together to interact and share critical findings of on-going research interventions to overcome production challenges.
The goal is to address research gaps and find appropriate solutions to problems affecting the sector?s growth.
GhanaVeg plans to identify challenges and make financial commitments under the GhanaVeg Research and Development Fund to resolve these.
This Fund would aid private organizations and their research partners to form an interface to fix the identified problems through innovative research.
GhanaVeg, which is supported by the Embassy of the Royal Kingdom of Netherlands, has a mission to establish sustainable and internationally-competitive vegetables sector that contributes to inclusive economic growth.
This mission is driven by a strong confidence in the quality of vegetables from Ghana to boost the health of users/consumers, and the genuine desire to help find innovative ways of doing business.
It is promoting the use of research as a vital tool or platform to remove gaps and address bottlenecks in the vegetable sector.
As indicated by Mr Joep Van den Broek, Programme Leader of GhanaVeg, at the opening of the GhIH Conference, the current challenges – phyto-sanitary, soil and climate change, could be largely reduced, if researchers and key players in the sector collaborated.
GhanaVeg believes that private sector research is relevant to the search for food security, to alleviate hunger in the world and the sustenance of a healthy environment.
It is living up to its commitment and what is left for the researchers to do is to innovate and adapt proactively their activities to meet the needs of the sector.
Professor William Oto Ellis, Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), hit the nail right on head, when he told researchers attending the GhIH Conference that, they must radically move away from the old ways of doing things and to make their outputs readily available to the people.
Access to new scientific information and innovations by farmers is the only way to tackle key challenges facing vegetable production for both the domestic and export markets.
It must not be lost on anybody that vegetable production is mainly undertaken by small-holder farmers, majority of whom are illiterates or semi-illiterates.
It is, therefore, important that researchers adopt better ways to communicate new scientific knowledge and innovations on post-harvest, storage, pest control, application of chemicals and others, which affect the quality of vegetables produced.
Source : GNA/newsghana.com.gh