GHANA – Ghana and Ivory Coast have launched the Hortifresh West Africa Programme to boost horticultural production and exports, reports GNA.

The programme, supported by the Netherlands aims to establish a sustainable and internationally competitive fruit and vegetable sector that would contribute to the inclusive economic growth and nutrition security.

The core activities of the new Hortifresh programme would include the support for innovative business ideas of small and medium enterprises in tomato, onion and mango production.

It focuses on contributing to competitive and innovative high-value fruit and vegetable sector, inclusive and sustainable fruit and vegetable sector and a conducive business climate that facilitates the development of the fruit and vegetable sector.

Additionally, there were opportunities that focused on improving food safety for the domestic market, better quality and added value for export.

HortiFresh project will be implemented by SNV in collaboration with Resilience, Advance Consulting, SENSE and Wageningen University and Research.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Mr Ron Strikker, the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana said there was need for credit banks to avail loan facilities for investments, innovations and expansion of the horticultural sector.

The programme seeks to increase the funding that goes to the agricultural sector, which stands at 4% of all the loans that banks give to Ghana.

Ron said the programme would challenge companies to innovate and expand their businesses; looking at new market opportunities both in the domestic and export markets.

“I strongly believe that the horticulture sector, by its very nature, can provide many jobs, exports and economic growth to the country.”

Commenting on the matter, Mr George Oduro, Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Horticulture called on the implementers of the programme to expand the support to inputs for vegetable farmers to improve on their yields.

It succeeds the GhanaVeg programme, which was implemented between 2014 and 2017 and supported more than 30 innovative projects implemented by lead companies.

European Union’s ban on vegetables from Ghana expired on 31 December 2017 as they had failed to meet EU’s rigorous export protocols on phyto-sanitary conditions.

As a result of the ban on vegetable exports into the European Union (EU), Ghana is said to have lost about US$30 million in revenue in between 2014-2017.