Mr Lukman Abdul-Rahim, Executive Director of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) on Tuesday said the most serious challenge militating against the growth of Micro and Small Scale Enterprises (MSEs) in Ghana was inadequate access to markets.
He said some of the Ghanaian indigenous products transcended boundaries and as such required to meet strict international standards and requirements, which sometimes failed to conform to the required standards and were therefore, rejected making access to such markets limited.
Mr Abdul-Rahim raised this concern in Tamale at the open of a two-day workshop on Trade Related Assistance and Quality Enabling Programme (TRAQUE) aimed at strengthening the capacity of NBSSI and Business Development Providers to provide advice to MSEs on quality management services for food handling and processing.
The European Union (EU) funded project dubbed: ?Support to improve services to Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in the field of food safety and quality management?, also seeks to support MSEs in achieving certification in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Programme (HACCP), which is expected to ensure that MSEs have integrated concepts of food safety management in their business operations leading to HACCP certifications.
Mr Abdul-Rahim said food safety and quality management was a matter of concern to all especially at a time when indigenous Ghanaian foods were continually being packaged for both domestic and international markets.
He said the phenomenon of the issue of inadequate access to markets that militate against the growth of MSEs in the country has its roots in a number of factors, which the entrepreneur had the potential to address.
He mentioned poor product and service quality, poor packaging and labeling, poor finishing, and the inability of operators to meet local and international standards and specification as some of the contributory factors that leads to rejection of some products.
He said despite the efforts being put in place to improve the regulatory environment for quality of food products, most MSEs have little or no exposure on issues of product quality improvement and standardization.
He said in the rapidly changing global environment, companies all over the world were not just producing their goods and services to meet local demands but they are increasingly focusing on consumer demands in other markets.
Mr Abdul-Rahim said understanding of food safety requirements among MSEs was necessary because it would improve the quality of food products and that it would enable them develop an effective food management system at the enterprise level.
Ms Habiba Sumani, Director of Women Entrepreneurship Development of the NBSSI stressed the importance of improving the capacity of MSEs to access local and international markets through product quality improvement and standardization.
Ms Sumani who is also the TRAQUE project coordinator said the first component of the project was meant to build capacities on food safety and quality management while the second component aimed at supporting MSEs in quality upgrading to meet international standards.
She observed that the MSEs sector constituted the largest segment of the industrial sector in Ghana and generated about 75 per cent of employment and expressed worry that the sector was confronted with a myriad of problems categorized as financial and non-financial.
She said inadequate access to financial assistance and stringent terms and conditions of financial institutions hinder access to credit for growth were some of the challenges and that inadequate to information, technology, new markets and lack of sound entrepreneurial and managerial skills was also affecting business growth in the country.