Business News of 2014-01-20

Ghanaian producers to attend organic food fair

The Ghanaian German Economic Association (GGEA) is organising what it calls “a strategic business delegation” to participate in Biofach 2014, the world´s leading fair on organic food and natural cosmetics.

Representatives of about 10 firms and individual producers of organic food and products are expected at Biofach 2014 slated for February 12-15 in Nürnberg, Germany.

The delegation will get the opportunity to network with decision makers from all the European supermarket giants, including Metro AG, Carrefour, Tesco, Lidi Stiftung and Aldi to learn current trends in the organic food sector and also market their products to them.

The President of the GGEA, Mr Stephen Antwi, told the Daily Graphic ahead of the fair that Ghanaian farmers should capitalise on the fact that its largest trading partner, the European Union (EU), preferred organic food to the genetically modified ones (GMOs).

“Ghana should, therefore, do everything to muster and increase growing crops organically, especially as it has the right climatic conditions and labour to do so,” Mr Antwi said, but added that Ghanaian producers, however, had to know what the buyers wanted by way of quality so as to produce to specification.

The fair comes in the wake of raging debate about whether it is ripe for Ghana to adopt genetically modified organisms into crops.

While scientists and agriculturists are pushing for the biotechnology in Ghana to improve plants’ drought resistance and yield, others are pushing for more organic methods of growing crops in the country.

The trade between Ghana and the EU is in excess of US$3 billion as of last year, with Ghana’s exports, including organic bananas, pineapples and other exotic tropical fruits grown organically, as well as the traditional cocoa beans.

The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has warned of detrimental consequences on Ghana’s non-traditional exports (NTEs) should the country adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into crops grown locally.

The authority said there were concerns over the health and risk of GMOs across Europe, where the bulk of the country’s NTEs go, as well as the United States, and that was affecting its sales and pushing consumer preference to non-GMOs foods. In 2012, 44.55 per cent of Ghana’s non-traditional products were exported to the European Union.

Agriculture contributed 21.3 per cent to the country’s total domestic productivity (Gross Domestic Product) in 2013 and employs about 40 per cent of the working population, according to the 2010 Population and Housing Census.

Exports of value-added agricultural or agro-based goods are still modest, but global demand for them is highly dynamic and estimated to show a continual increase.

Though agriculture remains the main livelihood for many Ghanaians who are mainly small landholders, their output are low, leading to a situation where out of the key agricultural activities such as food cropping, cocoa production, forestry and logging and fishing, the only exports remain cocoa, timber and pineapples.

Tough competition from larger African exporters and low-priced competitors in South America impacts Ghana’s profit margins every year.

However, agrofood experts believe 2014 looks promising for Ghanaian farmers who are taking steps to become organic growers as organic agriculture is steadily increasing around the world in spite of the economic downturn.

A Kenya-based organic agriculture company captured the world’s interest when they turned a depressed slum area in Kibera (Kenya) into a thriving organic farm, giving former criminals a better livelihood opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago, an executive at the national food store chain, Whole Foods, said when a product became verified as non-GMO, sales increased between 15-30 per cent.

Mr Antwi expressed the hope that the business-to-business matchmaking meetings between buyers and sellers at Biofach would yield positive results where some of the buyers and intermediaries could provide technical support for Ghanaian farmers and producers to increase incomes through more exports of organic food products.