The export of fruits from Ghana has been banned from major international markets due to the negative impact of fruit flies and other plant pests and diseases.
The ban, which affects 27 other African countries, is reported to have hit hardest the mango industry in Ghana, which held a lot of promise as a leading non-traditional export crop.
The United States, the European Union and other international markets are requesting Ghana and the other African countries to deal with the plant pests and diseases to enhance quality assurance of fruits and other export crops from those destinations.
Many mango farmers, who have invested heavily in the cultivation of the crop in anticipation of good export prospects, are now counting their losses, instead of reaping from their investment.
This was one of the critical issues flagged yesterday at the opening of a three-day workshop on “Strategies for prevention and containing emerging diseases and pests in West Africa” in Accra.
The workshop is under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Regional Office for Africa.
Entomologists and other international scientists are brainstorming on strategies for regional coordination and a road map for implementation of action plans for the prevention and control of pests and diseases in the sub-region.
Biotic threats are said to account for an estimated 30 per cent of post-harvest losses across the world.
The rate of loss is exceptionally high in sub-Saharan Africa due to the pervasiveness of many diseases affecting major food security crops, such as cassava, maize, banana, plantain, yam and taro, as well as horticultural crops that provide substantial income for millions of smallholder farmers in rural and peri-urban regions.
In a speech read on her behalf to open the workshop, the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Ms Maria Helena Semedo, said without international and regional co-operation, efforts at controlling and preventing pests and diseases would not be effective.
She said the workshop provided an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and alliances needed for the development of comprehensive and holistic regional strategies “so that together we can sustainably address the protracted and increasing challenges of trans-boundary pests and diseases on the continent we serve.”
The Biotechnology and Biosafety Programmes Manager of the Council for Agricultural Research and Development (West and Central Africa), Prof. Abdourahamane Sangare, said it was time to think of new approaches to manage plant pests and diseases.
He expressed the hope that the workshop would be the beginning of a success story in the fight against plant pests and diseases.
A Senior Entomologist at the Plant Production and Protection Division of the FAO, Dr Winfred N. O. Hammond, said there was the need for long and more sustainable ways of addressing plant pests and diseases, instead of short-term preparation and response to them.
He said without the requisite structures and capacity, it would be difficult to address the challenges of plant pests and diseases in Africa.