Vegetable farmers in Ghana producing for export and export companies are increasingly complying with quality and safety standards in line with international market requirements, a study by GhanaVeg has confirmed.
The study, dubbed: “GhanaVeg Vegetable Business Opportunities in Ghana: 2014,” says this could be used as a good example for the domestic market.
GhanaVeg is an initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in line with efforts towards prioritising commercial agriculture.
The study report was recently presented to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Fiifi Kwetey, in Accra, by the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Hans Docter.
The GhanaVeg report recommends that farmers would have to deal with pesticides in a more responsible manner, making use of Integrated Pest Management and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
However, they need to be supported in this, it says.
It says in Ghana, smallholder farming households undertake most of the traditional agricultural production; stating that about 90 per cent of farmers have less than two hectares.
According to the study, ignorance about pesticide use and other Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) related issues was found to be highest among many smallholder farmers.
It notes that though exporting companies of fruits and vegetables were implementing quality and safety assurance in various degrees and were increasingly thus proving to have the capacity to comply with international requirements, domestically a demand driven compliance to standards was not yet operational.
“The majority of farmers are practising preventive/calendar spraying with often too high dosages and mixing of several pesticides together,” it notes.
“There is limited use of protection equipment during pesticide application, pre-harvest intervals are not adhered to and counterfeit, banned or unregistered pesticides are being used by farmers”.
It says most of the problems of excessive and improper use of pesticides result from the lack of knowledge or awareness among farmers, which in turn stems from lack of sufficient training, advice and position of information.
“The use of pesticides appears to be increasing as there is availability of less labour, and overall labour costs are rising,” it states.
It observes that peri-urban farmers often had to make use of low quality or waste water sources for irrigation, which is likely to lead to microbial contamination.
It recommends the introduction of traceability systems to be designed for smallholder farmers to assist in quickly identifying the source of problems related to food safety and plant health compliance.
The study suggests the connection of farmer groups to the responsible authorities to obtain clean water supplies for irrigation.