Farming communities in the Eastern region are struggling to cope following the ban on the export of some vegetables to Europe.
According to farmers in these communities, the inability to export is making it difficult for them to raise money to take care of their families.
Jobs have been lost, farmlands have been left bare and unemployment is on the rise as a result of the problem.
The farmers are asking government to quickly work at resolving issues with the European Union to get the ban lifted so normal life can return to the communities.
“At the end of every year, I get about 15,000 cedis from the export of the chili pepper. And additionally, hundreds of young people worked on the fields growing and harvesting the pepper. But all that is not possible now,” Kwasi Nyantakyi, a farmer based at Beregoro in the Eastern Region told Joy News in an interview.
He used to farm and export chili pepper, but that is not possible now. The situation is same in several other towns in the region including Suhum and Nsawam.
Kwasi Nyantakyi, a farmer at Begoro
The ban was placed about four years ago after the EU claimed it had consistently found that vegetables exported to the European Union from the country contained pests.
According to the EU, repeated warnings to government to deal with the problem did not see it being resolved. Now, the ban is beginning to bite.
“Chili pepper has helped us here for a very long time. But pests and diseases are making it impossible to export them...We are hoping that they can reverse the ban quickly so we can continue to farm,” 22-year-old farmer at Apaa in the Fanteakwa District Kwesi Clement noted.
Officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have been undertaking training sessions for farmers and field trials as part of procedures that the ministry hopes will eventually lead to the lifting of the ban.
But the farmers are frustrated about what they say is the slow pace of work. The farmers have diversified and tried to grow other crops but they say that is not as profitable as the chili pepper.
“The problem is that over the last two years that we have been unable to export the chili pepper, it has been frustrating. We have tried to change the crops but we don’t earn enough money from them,” said Samuel Danso, an executive of the Export Farmers Association which has been created to help farmers deal with the problem.
“I used to employ 70 to 80 people on the chili pepper farm. But with the ban, those people don’t have any jobs to do? Government should help us, farmers, to get the ban lifted. When the chili pepper goes, even government benefits from the taxes,” Mr. Danso who is also a teacher in the Beregoro community noted.
The situation has resulted in hundreds of young people losing their jobs, thus forcing them to migrate to Koforidua and the national capital Accra.
Samuel Danso, an executive of the Export Farmers Association
For a lot of the young people, being able to grow and sell chili pepper constituted decent employment opportunities as envisaged by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 8 which seeks to promote decent employment.
Unfortunately, many farmers and youth have lost their jobs over the last few years as a result of the ban.
Agric Consultant with the Meridian Agricultural Services Aaron Attefah Ampofo says the problem is a completely avoidable one that could have been prevented.
He expresses concern about inadequate resources for government regulatory agencies that are supposed to help ensure effective monitoring of the food production chain.
“The very laws that create these institutions stipulate that they should be funded. But you will go there and money to conduct surveys on the market and also to enforce the regulations is not there,” he noted with concern.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has meanwhile assured it is committed to ensuring the window for export is re-opened once again soon.
A team from the EU was in the country last month to conduct a fresh round of assessment to determine whether the country had successfully dealt with the problem and will soon issue a report recommending what next.
The farmers are calling for a speedy resolution of the concerns so the ban can be lifted.