The Ghana Export Promotion Authority, in a new report released this month, has identified several European markets that the country’s exporters of sweet potatoes should seek to exploit. Although Ghana’s sweet potatoes exports grew by 23.3 percent in 2019, to reach US$434,000 up from US$333,000 in 2018, the country’s share of the global market is still an insignificant 0.1 percent, which ranks it as just the 40th largest exporter world wide.
Last year, Ghana’s biggest export markets were France which bought US$138,000 worth and Italy which bought US$129,000 worth. Between them they bought 61 percent of Ghana’s total sweet potato exports. The other major export destinations last year were Belgium US$81,000; Canada US$65,000; and the United Kingdom US$18,000.
But while Ghana’s exports to France grew by 2522 percent last year and sales to Italy and Belgium also grew by 597 percent and 294 percent respectively, exports to Canada declined by 14 percent. On a longer term basis, export of Ghanaian sweet potatoes to the United Kingdom have declined by 36 percent between 2015 and 2019 while over the same period exports to Norway have also fallen by 21 percent making that hitherto important export market much less significant currently.
Total global demand for sweet potatoes is currently put at US$699.393 million, in a market which grew by 23 percent between 2018 and 2019. Last year, The Netherlands was the world’s biggest importer of sweet potatoes, buying up US$157.096 million worth, this accounting for 22.5 percent of global imports. Other major importers with strong growth rates are the UK, Germany, Canada, France and Belgium.
GEPA’s research recommends that Ghanaian producers and exporters of sweet potatoes look to western Europe in particular for increased sales. Import tariffs imposed on Ghana are zero rated which is the same as for the biggest exporters to the European Union.
Based on this and favourable geographical distance, GEPA recommends markets such as France Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. While markets in France Italy and Belgium are already being exploited by Ghana, albeit at levels far below their full potential, some other markets – Spain, Switzerland and Norway – have not been exploited to any significant degree despite their strong potentials as rapidly growing markets, and indeed Ghana has zero market share in all three currently.
This despite the fact that Spain imported US$7.308 million worth of sweet potatoes last year, in an export market that has seen average annual growth of 54 percent between 2015 and 2019. Similarly, Switzerland imported US$6.985 million last year, with demand growing by an annual average of 17 percent over the past five years. Although Norway’s import growth rate over that period is considerably lower at just an annual average of 4 percent, its import market is already substantial in size at US$7.425 million.
Crucially though GEPA acknowledges that even as new export markets are found and old ones are better exploited there is the need for Ghana to step up its production capacity with regards to sweet potatoes – if those markets suddenly can be opened up and market share wrested from their current leading suppliers, Ghana could possibly be hard pressed to meet export orders at current production levels.