GHANA – Ghanaian farmers can now resume export of all plant commodities to the European Union (EU) market from January 1, 2018, following the European Commission’s decision on October 31, to lift the current ban on commodities from Ghana.

A release from the European Union Delegation to Ghana copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Tuesday identified the five Ghanaian plants as chilli pepper, bottle gourds, luffa gourds, bitter gourds and eggplants.

These plants would from January 1, 2018, have duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market like any other product from Ghana.

It said the five commodities would however have to fulfil the EU phytosanitary legislation to ensure the freedom of quarantine pests.

This decision follows an audit undertaken from September 12th to 21st 2017 by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission, and the evolution of the numbers of import interceptions with quarantine pests notified by Member States for commodities not subject to the ban, the release said.

It said since the beginning of the ban in October 2015, the Ghanaian authorities had taken significant corrective measures to improve the inspection and control system for plant health at exit points, in particular at the Kotoka International Airport.

“The European Commission congratulates Ghana for reaching this important milestone and encourages Ghana to consolidate the upgraded system and to continue further improvements in the phytosanitary certification system to obtain full compliance with the EU phytosanitary requirements,” the statement said.

This outcome, the release said, had been possible following combined efforts of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Service Department (PPRSD) and coordinated support from several development partners including the European Union through the Trade related Assistance and Quality Enabling programme (TRAQUE), the German International Cooperation (GIZ), the Netherlands Embassy through the GhanaVeg project and USAID.

It said the harmonised approach had been instrumental to reach the objective of complying with EU requirements this year.

It said the resumption of exports of all plant commodities to the EU market, would enable Ghana to fully benefit from the 100 per cent preferential access to the EU market, provided by the Stepping Stone Economic Partnership Agreement which entered into force on 15 December 2016.

The release said from 2012 to 2015, the number of intercepted plants from Ghana at the EU borders due to the presence of harmful organisms had increased significantly, leading Ghana to face the highest number of interceptions globally in 2015.

On October 13, 2015, the European Commission decided to prohibit the introduction of five plant commodities from Ghana into the EU market until end of December 2016 said the release, adding that the ban was purposely restricted to those commodities that had experienced the highest number of interceptions.

“Following an audit undertaken in September 2015, a decision was taken by the European Commission to renew the ban by one year until December 2017,” said the release.

It said over the past years, the Plant protection and Regulatory Service Department (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had received support from several development partners, notably to improve the inspection and control system at the airport, to improve traceability as well as to develop and implement the Ghana Green Label Scheme.

Coordination of the received support has been successfully done through the SPS Task Force setup and chaired by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the release said.