11.10.2004 Business & Finance

GEPC orders pineapple plantlets

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Accra, Oct. 11, GNA - The Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) has begun placing orders for MD2 pineapple plantlets from local and foreign producers to meet international market demand for Ghanaian pineapples following the Government's release of two million dollars to the Council.

MD2, also known as the Extra Sweet Pineapple, is now the most valued variety on the European Union (EU) market while demand for the Smooth Cayenne, which formed the bulk of Ghana's export had had gone down leading to loss of revenue.

MD2 is reputed for its high sugar and low acid content and self-ripening nature.

Ghana News Agency investigations revealed that the first consignment of one million plantlets was ordered from a foreign-based company in Honduras. The cost is not known but it is estimated to be higher than the local price.

The second consignment of 800,000 plantlets was ordered from Tongu Fruits in the Volta Region to be supplied and shared between the Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana (SPEG) and Horticultural Association of Ghana (HAG).

Bomart Farms Limited in the Eastern Region and the Botany Department of the University of Ghana have not received any orders although they also developed the MD2 plantlets from tissue culture materials confirmed by DNA tests.

Locally produced plantlets are sold at a unit cost of 30 cent of a euro or 36 cents of the dollar and the figure is likely to go down if demand increased.

Some stakeholders had expressed frustrations at delays by the GEPC to purchase and distribute their produce, which had led to misinformation among the farmers, the various associations and the producers.

The GNA learnt that even though the GEPC explained that the delay in coming out with its decision was to enable it do proper research to ensure that the MD2 in Ghana was the actual product the Council seemed more inclined towards importation of the produce.

The GEPC organised a meeting of stakeholders last week at which Mr Adu Mensah, General Manager and caretaker of the Fund, said a committee to research into the MD2 and to make recommendations for the purchase of the produce had completed the groundwork.

Mr Adu Mensah indicated that the Government's intervention stemmed from persistent slump of revenue from the export of fresh pineapple from Ghana though it announced in the 2004 budget that it would support the production of the MD2 with the two million dollars.

At the meeting the Council said before it could implement its findings it had advised that even though the price of the MD2 had over-shadowed the West African Smooth Cayenne, Ghanaian producers should not switch entirely to the MD2.

The Council's report to the meeting concluded that the produce from the three producers (Tongu Fruits, Bomart Farms and Botany Department) was MD2 but that they did not have the capacity to produce the total requirement of the farmers. They said it would take the three producers between two to eight months to produce on sustainable basis.

Experts say an order for plantlets of tissue culture material could be delivered in batches at possibly three months' intervals. This is because even though a farmer may need for example 200,000 plantlets, he could not plant everything at a go, as the planting was a painstaking effort that needed careful preparation of soil. Therefore, such a farmer would plant about 20,000 to 30,000 plantlets a month.

Technically, production of the material is also done in batches. The Council's lead researcher, Dr Ben Dadzie also advised that any importer of the produce should be careful not to import diseased MD2 as it would be a source of disaster to the country.

At the end of the meeting, some of the participants expressed disappointment because the Council did not announce its decision on the procurement of the MD2 and indicated there was the possibility for the Council to import the plantlets from foreign companies and that the action would kill local initiatives.

However, a week after the meeting, the GEPC announced in the newspapers that it would distribute one million pineapple suckers at the end of October this year. importing agent.

In an interview, Mr Rolland Aggor of the GEPC denied that the Council had placed the order but said it had pre-qualified the Honduras based company for the purchase of the plantlets but had not concluded negotiations.

He insisted that the Council was doing its best to serve the interest of the country and repeated that the short-term plan was to purchase and distribute the one million suckers announced in the newspapers from a local company.

In the medium term the Council would purchase 2.4 million plantlets from local and foreign companies.

In the long term, the GEPC seemed more inclined to support a project by the SPEG and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), which is yet to begin the production of MD2.

The production capacity levels of the local producers are one million per month from Tongu Fruits, which has its laboratory in Belgium and Bomart Farms, which has it Tissue Culture Laboratory in Ghana can produce 300,000 now and increase it to 500,000 by February next year while the Botany Department can produce 20,000.

In an interview with the GNA, Mr Daniel Luteyn, Managing Director of Tongu, confirmed that he had received an order for the 800,000 plantlets. He was pleased with the order, which would be at a total cost of 288,000 dollars.

On his capacity level, Mr Luteyn said he was already selling plantlets from his farms to other farmers and gave the assurance that he could produce and supply more than a million plantlets if he were given the order.

When contacted, Mr Anthony Botchway, Managing Director of Bomart Farms, said he had not received any order as at the time of filing this story but said he could also produce larger quantities based on the orders he received.

In the separate interviews, the two Managing Directors indicated that given the opportunity Ghana could compete with Costa Rica, which came out with the MD2 for a good share of the export market.

The hope expressed by stakeholders (producers and farmers and exporters), therefore, is a final decision by the Council to give undivided attention to the homegrown MD2 to dribble foreign competitors out of the trade.

The price per unit of imported tissue culture material ranges between 40 cents to 54 cents of the dollar.

Figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture indicate that pineapple, which contributed 18.84 per cent to total horticultural exports in 2002, came down to 11.76 in 2003.

The MD2 gained 10 per cent of the European Union (EU) pineapple market when introduced in 1996. Currently the MD2 represents about 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the EU market for pineapple and is priced at about 1.80 euros to two euros per kilogram. This makes the variety about two times more valuable than the Smooth Cayenne.

"Overview of World Trade in Pineapples, Ghana's performance" made available to the GNA by GEPC indicated that the world's production of pineapple had grown consistently and as at end 2002, the total production was 14.8 million metric tons while the total for Africa was 2.6 million metric tons.

The Document showed that Ghana's exported in:

1995 - 15,763 metric tons

1996 - 27,602 ,,

1997 - 25,123 ,,

1998 - 21,940 ,,

1999 - 33,440 ,,

2000 - 28,551 ,,

2001 - 34,933 ,,

2002 - 46,391 ,,

Among the main importing countries of the produce were the United States, 24 per cent; Japan, six per cent; United Kingdom, three per cent; Belgium, 11 per cent; France, 10 per cent; Germany, seven per cent and Italy, eight per cent.

These countries' exports are matched with supplies from countries such as South Africa, Cameroon, Benin, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire and Mauritius.

Of all the pineapple-exporting nations, African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries exported a total of 290,310 metric tons to the European Union during the period under review and among these exporters; Cote d'Ivoire is ranked first with an export volume of 235,976 metric tons.

Ghana's exports to the UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg totalled 44,552 metric tons at the period and represented 15 per cent of exports from the ACP countries.

The nation's exports represented six per cent of the world exports of the product and ranked fifth among the lot.

Coming down to West Africa, Cote d'Ivoire dominates the EU market with 47 per cent exports of pineapple while Ghana has 8.7 per cent to her credit.

The EU market is still growing and shows a lot of prospects, especially in Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark as destinations to expand Ghanaian exports.

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