Somanya (E/R), June 2, GNA- Government is to exploit the potential of mango growing and export so that it could become leading player in the horticultural industry in the country.
Mr Ernest Debrah, Food and Agricultural Minister, who announced this said studies had shown that Ghana has a comparative advantage in terms of good rainfall and soils to produce higher quality of the fruit to meet the growing international demands.
The Minister suggested this on Thursday in a speech read for him by Mr Livingston Djokoto, a Director at the Ministry to commemorate the first ever celebration of "Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) Mango Day" in the Yilo Krobo District in the Eastern Region. ADRA through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced in 1997 the cultivation of mangoes in the districts of the country.
Currently, it had assisted nearly 6,000 farmers to cultivate about 5500 acres of mango plantation.
Mr. Debrah said with the current awareness created by ADRA, and the level of interest shown in the growing areas, the Ministry through the Agricultural Sub-Sector improvement Programme (AgSSIP) that was being implemented in collaboration with the World Bank, would place premium on mango cultivation.
"If we take advantage of the vast resources at our disposal to become highly competitive in capturing value, we can compete favourably with dominating countries such as Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela and South Africa.
"Ghana needs to develop the mango sector to capture a fair share of the international market since our different agro-ecological zones gives us the advantage of growing the crop at different times of the year...". The Minister, however, said the country needed to remove bottlenecks such as limited choice of mango variety suitable for export, control and management of pests, lack of control for physiological disorder, storage among that others that characterised mango production.
On value addition, he said there was the need to develop the capacity and the infrastructure base to process the mango fruits into puree and juices for export.
He said through AgSSIP, Cold Chain facilities would be provided at both air and sea ports to assists those who would go into processing and out-grower schemes.
On the nutritional value of mango, the Minister said it provides Vitamin "A" and promotes better health saying, "I challenge parents to let their children cultivate the taste for mango fruits and eat at least one a day."
Mr Samuel Asante-Mensah, Country Director of ADRA, said the global production of mango stands at 25 million tonnes of fresh fruits and 290,000 tonnes of processed mango pulp, puree and juice. He said of this, Africa produces 10 percent and 11 percent of the fresh fruits and processed respectively.
Mr Asante-Mensah noted that the world's demand has arisen by an annual average of 10 per cent and a further increase of about 10 per cent was expected between 2005 and 2008.
Currently, he said, the demand for mangoes from Ghana exceeded supply but the country could not in the short term produce enough for the European market and South Africa.
Mr Asante-Mensah said: "It is known that some mango processors in Ghana cannot even get enough to buy and so have to import from Burkina Faso" he said.
The ADRA Country Director indicated that the potential of mango far exceeds that of cocoa and citrus.
He said the yield per acre for cocoa currently stood at nine million cedis whilst mango gives a whopping 25 to 40 million cedis. Mr Asante Mensah said to maximize market potentials through fruit quality maintenance, ADRA was arranging to train farmers to adhere to the European gap Standards to enable them penetrate the European markets.
He asked Districts Assemblies and Members of Parliament to consider investing a fraction of their common fund to support the production of grafted mangos.
Farmers who through a dint of hard work were able to increase yields and expand production by way of acquiring more lands for cultivation were awarded with certificates and television sets.