Bechem (Ahafo), March 04, GNA – Vegetable farming, a major source of livelihood for many Ghanaians, have huge health benefits, enhances food and nutritional security of Ghanaians and offers great opportunities for export as well.
The domestic market alone is growing at more than 10 per cent per annum and the potential value for export vegetables is estimated at US$250 million.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2003), high vegetable intake could reduce ischemic heart disease and stroke by 31 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
The Pesticides Control and Management Act (528), was promulgated in 1996 to regulate the proper use of pesticides in Ghana.
That Act (528) gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the sole mandate to register all pesticides imported, exported, manufactured, distributed, advertised, sold and used.
But, the Nyame-Bekyere Cooperative Vegetable Farming and Marketing Society Limited, a farmer-based organisation (FBO) is worried that the legislation which is to assure pesticides are used in a safe way in the country is not being enforced to the latter.
With a membership of more than 200, spread across Bono, Bono East, Ahafo and parts of Ashanti regions, members of the society cultivate and sell vegetables in the Techiman, Bechem, Duayaw-Nkwanta, Kumasi, Goaso and Sunyani markets.
Currently, they are crying over-proliferation of adulterated, fake and harmful agrochemicals on the market.
This, they believed was due to negligence and inability of the EPA and the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) to enforce the Act and regulate the agro-chemical industry.
As a result, the vegetable farmers experienced low yields leading to poor market access due to the inferior nature of their produce.
Consequently, the businesses of many of the vegetable farmers are collapsing because they are unable to pay back their loans.
Many thanks to the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, which has been providing funding support for the Nyame-Bekyere Cooperative Vegetable Farming and Marketing Society Limited to implement advocacy project to draw the attention of policy makers and find lasting solution to sanitize the vegetable production industry.
The advocacy project is to be implemented within six months at the cost of GH¢70,000.00 and aimed at helping to remove all bottlenecks impeding the growth and development of the vegetable production industry.
It is also expected to help improve on the farming efficiency of the food production system and increase income levels of all members of the society and expand access to and ensure sustainable and quality agrochemical supply to farmers to increase vegetable production in those areas.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr. Opoku Afriyie, the Chairman of the society expressed appreciation to BUSAC and its partners for the support.
This is because many vegetable farmers in Techimantia, Derma, Bechem, Duanyaw-Nkwanta and other settler farming communities could not differentiate between the fake and genuine agro-chemicals when they went to the market.
There must be a national policy on fruit and vegetable production and consumption and this policy must create rooms for subsidies, price controls and other interventions to improve production.
Ghana must have specific standards to follow along the vegetable value chain, so that produce would be certified while the EPA and the GSA ensure compliance with the standards.
More so, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), EPA and the GSA must, therefore, intensify monitoring to rid-off dealers of the hazardous chemicals in the vegetable industry.
Madam Evelyn Bema Darkwa, the Public Relations Officer of the Society, called for policy reforms and enforcement of the appropriate regulations to increase vegetable production, quality produce and access to the market.
In her view, if the issues of standardization and regulation of agrochemicals in the market were done properly and enforced then the effects on farmers and public consumers would be positive in both quantity and quality of produce.
This would help farmers have access to both local and global market too.
Madam Darkwa called for increased operational budget and funding for the EPA so that the Agency could be properly decentralized at all levels.