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Mango, Ghana's Untapped "Gold Mine"

Thu, 8 May 2008 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Lawrence Qaurtey

Accra, May 7, GNA - Quite often one hears Researchers and Experts say a breakthrough has been made in this or that area, but rarely does one hear of what happens thereafter. It is sad to note that many of Ghana's remarkable findings and innovations especially in the agricultural sector continue to lie on the shelves enmeshed in cobwebs and grime.

This country is blessed with some of the greatest brains the world has ever produced, but their exploits and achievements are choked and sacrificed every now and then under the "altar" of lack of adequate resources.

Is Ghana as nation afraid to take risks? Or are Ghanaians afraid to commit resources into what their own researchers tell them? To quote a popular adage: "To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard of life is to risk nothing". If the country does not believe in her scientists and researchers, then on what basis would it want to develop?

Recent studies have shown that, Ghana's comparative advantage in the production of fresh mangoes, especially the grafted type, have the potential to greatly turn around and transform the economy, if much attention were redirected and focussed on mass cultivation of the fruit.

But there seem to be little effort in that direction, especially on the part of Government apparently because of its policy of not directly engaging in productive activities. To what extent should the State shirk itself from economic activities when the United Nations is now touting the need for developmental States?

From hindsight, some agric experts have contended that if Ghana is blessed with so much "gold" (mango) and yet failed to take advantage, then she ought to be blamed for lack of foresight and determination to make use of her potential resources to develop. Current statistics on mango export earnings have shown that mango, centuries' age old fruit, has enormous potential that could transform Ghana's economy much better than cocoa and other traditional export products.

Globally, the production of mango currently stands at about 25 million tonnes of fresh fruits and 290,000-processed mango pulp, puree and juice. Of this Africa produces only 2.5 million tonnes, accounting for about 10 per cent of fresh fruits and 11 per cent of processed mango.

Ghana's current production is said to have increased from about 1,200 tonnes in 2007 to about 2,000 in 2008. Meanwhile, the demand for mango in Ghana far exceeds the supply.

This is welcome news that must be embraced not just by individual domestic farmers but also at the national governmental level in order to make maximum gains for the nation's development. What is refreshing is that, the country as it stands now cannot in the short term produce enough to meet the ever-increasing demand on the European market. This is besides the growing demand for the fresh mango fruits from South Africa, especially during the winter months, which incidentally coincides with the harvest season in Ghana. This means, the export market for mangoes has already been created by the huge demand. This is simple but vital information that should trigger efforts to supply.

The rest of global production comes from leading producers like Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, India and USA. The SPORE journal reports that, there is an enormous growing demand for mangoes globally. This demand has risen to an annual average of 10 per cent and is expected to rise by a further eight per cent by the close of 2008. Such growth, according to the SPORE Journal could prove a golden opportunity to Africa, especially Ghana that has comparative advantage in the cultivation of the mango fruit.

As indicated earlier, undoubtedly, Ghana has an immeasurable comparative advantage for the cultivation of grafted mango. This rests in the fact that most of the lands of the Coastal Savannah, Northern Ashanti, the transitional zones of Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions, the Northern Volta Region, and the whole of Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions are suitable for mango production that meet international quality specification. These areas with their abundant moisture and hot temperatures are suitable for large-scale production the fruit. As a tree crop that thrives best in areas of moderate rainfall and high light intensity, the savannah areas are the best for mango. Agronomists have argued that, Ghana with a better comparative advantage in Africa in terms of rainfall, soil and proximity could become a very important producer within a few years if the nation committed resources to the industry.

At present, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), a nongovernmental organisation, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping local mango farmers to produce the type that meet the quality standards needed to compete at the international market.

ADRA is assisting the farmers in various districts and regions, especially in the Savannah areas to cultivate mangoes. They are providing farmers with the requisite knowledge to adhere to the Euro Gap Standards to enable them to penetrate the European and other foreign markets.

As part of the effort to promote the cultivation and consumption of the fruit locally, ADRA in 2005 coined a phrase from an adage 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away" to "a mango a day keeps the doctor away' to drum home the message.

Dwelling on the health benefits of mango, the Country Director of ADRA, Mr Samuel Asante-Mensah at a Mango Day celebration at Somanya in the Eastern Region noted that: "The more Ghanaians consume mangoes, the better health they will have and as a nation the more employment and income they would create for the population.

"Currently Ghana imports a lot of fruits juices including mango juice from South Africa; let us now turn the tide since we have the comparative advantage to produce and export to other countries,' he said.

ADRA's intervention was spurred by the overwhelming success story of the farmers; hence it's institution of a national Mango Day. In 2005, the Agency marked the first Mango Day as part of its agro-forestry programme in the country aimed at bringing to the knowledge of farmers the growing potentials of mango. The idea was also to create employment and support farmers to improve upon their incomes levels. The Mango Day was under the theme: "Mango Production and Processing - A Sure Way To Alleviate Poverty."

Many including government officials, agronomists, and farmers who attended the Mango Day celebration marvelled at what they heard about the 'magic' of mango.

Mr Asante-Mensah told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that, ADRA since 1997 has been mobilising local farmers and providing them with credit to acquire plots of land and other farm inputs specifically to go into the production of mango. "Today these farmers are not only happy and smiling for good harvest, but more importantly they have been empowered economically and their lives have been made better.

"Mango production has brought hope and life to their families. Some have been able to build themselves, roofs over their heads and their children have ceased to be school drop-outs," the ADRA Country Director happily noted.

Perhaps non-mango lovers will begin to wonder what at all has become of the ancient fruit that has become so special. Science has shown that the mango tree grows up to 15 metres (50 feet) high with spreading top and numerous branches. It is widely grown in the tropics for its succulent fruit. The fruit, which is a fleshy drupe, is somewhat kidney-shaped or oval from five to 15cm (2 to 6 inches) in length, greenish, yellowish or reddish in colour and contains a large flattered stone.

Mango belongs to the family, Anacardiaceous. It is classified as Mangifera Indica. Its fruit taste sweet and delicious and have the advantage of being relatively low in calories and high in nutrients. What is more fascinating and which has whipped up the interest of researchers, policy makers and agronomists is the fact that mango today has comparative advantage over cocoa, palm oil and citrus. Statistics available show that citrus has break-even point of seven years; cocoa at eight years and palm oil at 10 years while mango has a break-even point of five years.

In terms of export earnings, currently yield per acre for cocoa stood more than 1,000 Ghana Cedis; citrus, 1,500 Ghana Cedis to 2,500 Ghana Cedis but mango ranges between 2,500 Ghana Cedis and 4,000 Ghana Cedis. One of the farmers who won an award at the national Mango Day said: "I can't even express my feelings because we know mango for ages, but today the moneys I am making in the fruit far outweighs what I make from my cocoa farm. If my cocoa land were to be good for mango cultivation I will not waste time at all to use it for mango production".

The challenge ahead will be to work at making the greatest impact in a sustainable manner, which requires the removal bottlenecks such as lack of storage facilities; quality packaging; limited choice of mango variety suitable for export; pest control and management. These barriers must be removed if Ghana were to take its pound of the flesh as far as its advantage in the production of mango were concerned.

It is also important that the processing of mangoes is expanded and taken serious. At present, there are only few companies in the country that are into the processing of mangoes into puree, pulp and juice. To avoid large post-harvest losses, more processing plants should be established to absorb the increasing production coming from big plantations. This is because gradually more and more big time investors will enter the mango industry in order to take advantage and make the maximum profit. Processing will increase the value of fresh fruits tremendously and also create further employment in the producing areas. For the nation to make the maximum benefit from the fruit, public education must be stepped up locally on the need for Ghanaians to increase their consumption of fruits including mangoes.

Columnist: GNA