Banana producers in Ghana have formed a professional association to develop the sector and address the needs of members of the industry.
The three commercial organizations, namely Golden Exotics Limited, Volta River Estates Limited and Musamahat Farms Limited seek to promote the commercial development and marketing of banana, maintain the highest international quality standards, ensure visibility on the international market for the Ghanaian and African banana among others.
The sector which is about 25 years in the country is currently the second to cocoa and oil palm in the agricultural produce export and remains the single most important non-traditional export crop, providing about 5,000 direct jobs in the lower Volta regions of Ghana, but suffering some major setbacks in competing with the global market.
Managers of the farms are bemoaning the poor infrastructure at Tema port which is hindering operations there and the high energy bills. According to them, the costs of energy tariffs are three times higher than neighbouring Ivory Coast and Cameroon who are also engaged in the same business.
Speaking to journalists at the launch of the Banana Producers Association on 1st August at Kasunya, the president of the newly formed group, Anthony Blay indicated that banana producers spend about GHS100,000 monthly on energy bills alone.
“We pay in the region of about, at the peak of it, about GHS100,000 a month that is second to our payroll, on a monthly basis which is quite huge for a small company like ours,” he lamented.
The Association has also raised concerns over the difficulty in accessing the Tema port due to excessive traffic and congestion there. According to them, the situation contributes largely to logistical cost.
“Congestion is quite a problem because there are times that you simply cannot have your truck make two rounds of transporting the bananas to the port because there is so much congestion getting into the port,” Blay added. That notwithstanding, the Ghanaian market is again facing colossal threats on the international market which is negatively impacting the industry.
The Association is tasking stakeholders to act as a united front to defend their interest on the European market as well as appealing to government to address the issues.
On his part, the Managing Director of Golden Exotics Limited, Benedict Rich said the challenges which are hindering their breakthrough to remain competitive on the international market are enormous.
“We are faced with enormous competition from Latin America where production levels are very high and they have highly developed infrastructure and enjoys economies of scale. Besides we face constantly changing legislation which sometimes negatively impacts our business in our main market in Europe,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, the government has pledged to support the Association to alleviate the plights facing the sector. The Deputy Agriculture Minister in charge of Horticulture, George Oduro said government is committed to making the sector succeed to boost the economic development of the country.
“This government has realised the economy of this nation can be improved through agriculture. So, major steps are being taken to ease most of the pressure on this sector. I remember very well, from our statistics, we know Golden exotics your energy cost alone used to be around 1 million dollars a month, just on energy. So based on this information gathered by the government, which is why industries were given 30 percent reduction in energy cost which is happening elsewhere. You are doing very well and the government will also help this kind of industry to survive for a very long time,” he assured.
The Association was also inducted into AFRUIBANA, which is the Pan African organization of banana and other fruits producers and exporters which is the main exporter of banana in Arica.
The chairman of AFRUIBANA and co-Chair of the joint ACP-EU Parliament, Joseph Owona-Kona challenged the newly inducted Association to step up its game to harvest the proceeds in the industry.
“Because of the volumes the Latin Americas are exporting, they have reached economy of scales, they are producing their boxes, they are producing their fertilizers and so on, which we don’t actually do in Africa or at very small scale. This is one of the reasons why it is important that we come together and we share production, for instance, boxes, production of fertilizers. These are areas that need to be explored,” he noted.