Non-traditional exports such as pineapple and banana have been a major source of foreign earners for Ghana for some time now.
Even though Ghana has the potential to increase exports of such fruits, the outbreak of the pandemic has rolled back some of the gains made by farmers in this field.
Figures published by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority(GEPA), shows that exports of Banana from Ghana increased from 71.4 million dollars in 2017 to 77.67 million dollars in 2018.
Even though the value of pineapple export is nowhere near that of banana, pineapple farmers say, the volume of export has seen some increase over the years. In 2018, the value of pineapple export hit 33 million dollars.
Ghana’s pineapple is said to be a favorite among Europeans. For instance, almost 79 percent of the total exports of pineapples from Ghana went to the European Union Market, with France absorbing close to 26% of the total exports in 2018.
However, with the spread of COVID-19, farmers in Ghana who export pineapple and banana have been affected as international prices of the fruits have dropped. George Kporye, the Corporate Affairs and Administrative Director of Golden Exotics Limited, a company that exports about 85 percent of banana and pineapple from Ghana, disclosed this to the media.
“So initially, when there was a huge rush to shop because of the impending lockdown, demand went up significantly and prices too went up. But during the lockdown and immediately after, the prices have stabilized. In fact, there is a glut situation on the market and people are not going to the supermarket to shop. But for bananas, it is a stable product. It is not that bad but prices are on average, lower than they should be at this time of the year. During the peak of the COVID-19 infections, there were many control mechanisms put in place. This gave us a lot of problems especially for our customers in Italy and Belgium, but they were resolved quickly within the transportation sector in Europe over time,” he said.
After the outbreak of COVID-19, safety protocols were announced to prevent the spread.
For banana and pineapple farms meant for export to Europe, there are strict requirements for such fruits to enter the European market. Mr. Kporye told the media, maintaining the standards, and observing the safety protocols by enforcing social distancing, running a shift system, and purchasing Personal Protective Equipment, cost him an additional 1.2 million cedis.
“We are able to transport all our workers to work and back home. However, because of the pandemic, we have had to make some adjustments in the way we work and transport our workers. That has had some impact on us but mostly financial. In terms of providing protective clothing, and additional transportation due to the social distancing protocols we have had to increase the fleet by 25%. This means we have had to rent an additional twenty buses to convey them. The cost of that is around GHS 1.3 million additional expenses as of June,” he said.
Although Golden Exotics Limited serves some clients in Africa, the company exports the bulk of its products to the EU. For Mr. Kporye, the market has enough room for new entrants, but the strict adherence to standards and requirements has made Ghana lag behind Ivory Coast.
“This is always a major potential for everybody in productive activity and for us, we are already doing 20% of our production in West Africa. We send our bananas to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Benin. This is a growth area for us, so the more the environment is sanitized, the better for us so we can go further. We need both the local and international market to see growth. So, if we can produce ten times what we do today, then we can sell both in Africa and in Europe and beyond. This also means we may need eight times the labor we already have,” he said.