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28.09.2004 Business & Finance

GEPC yet to take decision on procurement extra-sweet pineapple

By GNA

Accra, Sept. 28, GNA - The Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) said on Tuesday it was yet to take a decision on the procurement of extra-sweet pineapple plantlets, also known as MD2.

The GEPC has received two million dollars from the government for the procurement of the plantlets for local pineapple farmers. At a meeting with stakeholders of the industry, Mr. Ben Dadzie, a researcher and consultant serving on a technical committee, said the Council had completed its groundwork for the procurement and found it could purchase some of the plantlets from two Ghanaian producers of the MD2.

Mr Dadzie said so far there were two Ghanaian companies producing the MD2 plantlets. They are Bomarts Farms Limited located near Nsawam in the Eastern Region and the Tongu Fruits Company located in the Volta Region.

However, the research results indicated that two institutions, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAECC) and the Botany Department of the University of Ghana, would require between two to eight months to produce plantlets on sustainable basis. GAEC is yet to begin the production of the MD2.

A Costa Rica-based multinational company under the name Del Monte developed the MD2.

The product is now the biggest variety for the export market and has significantly reduced revenue from the locally grown pineapples, such as Smooth Cayenne variety, due to its high sugar and low acid content.

Figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture indicate that pineapple, which contributed 18.84 per cent to total horticultural exports in 2002, declined by 7.71 per cent to 11.76 in 2003. Meanwhile, the MD2 gained 10 per cent of the European Union (EU) pineapple market when introduced in 1996. Currently the MD2 represents about 70 to 75 per cent of the EU market for pineapple and is priced at about 1.80-two euros per kilogram. This makes the fruit about two times more valuable than the Smooth Cayenne.

The GNA reported early this month that Ghana had made a breakthrough in the promotion of MD2 with the establishment of a Tissue Culture Laboratory by Bomart Farms.

Tongu Fruits has its laboratory in Belgium.

Mr Dadzie noted that there was national concern for Ghana to earn more revenue from the export of pineapple but the shift to MD2 needed to be a gradual process.

He therefore, cautioned farmers who imported pineapple products into the country to limit themselves to the importation of tissue materials and not mature plantlets, which could harbour diseases and result in a disaster if such diseases infected the pineapple region. In a speech read for him, Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiative, said the government was concerned about recent developments in pineapple exports and was doing everything it could to assist the industry.

Some of the mechanisms pursued by the government included the facilitation of access to credit and market for non-traditional products such as the pineapple.

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