Government needs to strengthen the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Agric Ministry so it can enforce stronger standards on agriculture produce before it leaves the country’s shores, the Federation of Associations of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE) has urged.

Given that a big chunk of the country’s exports is agriculture-related, FAGE is of the view that a stronger PPRSD, a MoFA unit mandated to issue permits for the importation and exportation of soil, plant and plant products and fertiliser, will directly lead to an increase in export volumes and revenue for government.

President of FAGE, Anthony Sikpa told the B&FT that, if effectively supported, PPRSD has the potential to make Ghana’s exports globally competitive.

“What we are trying to do now is that we want to avoid products coming to the port and people having to influence the officers [PPRSD staff) to let them go, only to be stopped at the other end; we need to save ourselves from the embarrassment,” he stated.

Over the past few years, Ghanaian exports – particularly fruit and vegetables – have come under severe scrutiny in the European market for failing quality standards.

In October 2014, for instance, the European Union (EU) placed a ban on the export of five commodities from Ghana, namely: chilli pepper, bottle gourds, luffa gourds, bitter gourds and eggplants, due to phytosanitary concerns.

The decision, which was reserved at the beginning of this year, is said to have led to a US$30million loss in revenue for Ghana between 2014 and 2017.

Although Ghanaian vegetables and fruit are now allowed into the EU market, Mr. Sikpa lamented that the rules have become stricter for them – and said that it is imperative for the country to initiate all necessary steps to ensure its exports fall within global standards.

To this end, FAGE – which promotes the expansion and diversification of Ghanaian exports and improvement in the business environment – believes that PPRSD remains one of the institutions that could help redeem the image of Ghana as an exporter of quality and safe fruit and vegetables, as well as agriculture produce as a whole.

Asked which part of the country’s export strategy needs strengthening, Mr. Sikpa said: “Our agriculture needs strengthening; the way we produce, our policies on seed and land preparation, and all other things that do not do us justice in making our produce attractive in the market place need to be looked at.

“So, we need to look at how we can even train our people to produce and to make our agriculture competitive; and that indicates a lot of things ought to be done differently.”

FAGE is an umbrella-organisation of exporter and product associations, under the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), with over 2,500 members.

It represents Ghanaian businesses in the agricultural and manufacturing industries: including exporters of food crops, seafood, agricultural products, forest products, handicrafts, textiles, and industrial materials.