Accra, June 29, GNA - Mr Lawrence E. Yankey, Executive Director of the Ghana Standards Board (GSB), on Tuesday said the Board was engaged in the standardisation of the country's horticultural produce to help reduce the incidence of rejection and downgrading of such produce on the international market due to poor quality and unwholesomeness.
He said to achieve this goal GSB had begun collaborating with the US-Ghana Consultative Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (CCARD) since January this year with sponsorship from USAID to develop standards with grading for fruits and vegetables like chillies, ginger, mango, papaya, pineapple, sweet cassava sweet pepper and sweet potato. Mr Yankey, who was speaking at stakeholders' workshop to assess quality standards for selected fruits and vegetables, said the standards when implemented would provide safety and quality requirements needed to be satisfied to enhance competitiveness.
The workshop is under the theme: "Standards, Tool for Market Access for Fresh Ghanaian Produce.
Participants are expected to workout modalities for implementing standards that would benefit the nation and ensure industry self-compliance.
He said current trends in food safety management systems required collaboration between food industry and the public food control agencies to institute measures at promoting quality and safety along the food supply and delivery chain.
Mr Yankey said it was no longer acceptable to inspect safety and quality of products by sorting out the good from the bad in the final lot but that it was rather desirable to assist and encourage the food industry to build the capacity and the capability to produce good quality and safety products in the right quantities at all times. He appealed to participants to adopt a holistic approach to the implementation of the standards focusing on issues such as planting material; good agronomic practices; use of appropriate agro-chemicals and proper application of permitted pesticide with relevant monitoring mechanism to ensure that residual levels of pesticides fell within the prescribed limits.
Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Food and Agriculture, who opened the workshop, said the only sure way to meet international standard in food production was to develop and upgrade standard and ensure strict compliance with international requirements. He said changes in the global marketplace were largely related to the World Trade Agreement on sanitary measures and the technical barriers to trade.
"Our inability, therefore, to meet the obligations and requirement in these agreements would result in our un-competitiveness on the global market."
Major Quashigah said the standards process had been long awaited because it formed the backbone for production as well as marketing at all levels of trade if enforced appropriately. The availability of standards would go a long way to facilitate legislation, regulation and control of fresh produce during production and post-production with preventive measures to check hazards from fresh produce.
A holistic food chain approach would recognise that the responsibility for supplying safe fresh produce lies with all those involved in the food chain.
He said the responsibility also extended to the food regulatory agencies as well as the end consumer, who must be educated to ensure that fresh produce were properly stored, hygienically prepared and shelf-lives respected.
He said good agricultural practices, which established basic principles and indicators for on-farm operators such as soil and water management, integrated pest management, proper storage, processing and waste disposal could complement the standards.
Mr Kwamina Bartels, Minister for Private Sector Development, in a speech read for him, said the Government in the last budget voted two million dollars to support the diversification of pineapple production in Ghana to include the new variety MD2, which was a preferred variety on the international market.
He said with the Government's support pineapple exports, mainly the smooth cayenne variety grown in Ghana contributed 15.52 million dollars representing 46 per cent of the total export earning from non-traditional exports in 2002.
He said the partnership of GSB; the national institute in charge of developing standards for different processes, with the private sector at all levels was critical. 29 June 04