As part of its efforts to help improve the culture for quality in the Ghanaian palm oil value chain with the issues of farmers in Ghana have had to deal with an arbitrary pricing system at the mercy of aggregators and mills and other challenges, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with funding from the Swiss Government is implementing the Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP) in Ghana with the Palm oil value chain actors to assess the quality awareness utilising the UNIDO developed culture tool.
As a follow-up, the programme implementers organized a roundtable conference in Koforidua to discuss with all the main actors the key findings of their assessment and help them establish modalities for improving the quality culture and entrenching the available standards, among others.
The discussion came at a time when actors believe that government must help to address the palm oil quality, arbitrary pricing system faced by aggregators and mills in the local market to protect farmers’ interest and guarantee them sustainable livelihoods.
The discussion brought in more than 35 key stakeholders from government agencies, academia, farmers and the private sector, to discuss the culture for quality in the Ghanaian palm oil value chain.
Speaking at the roundtable conference, Chief Technical Advisor, Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP), Ama Nyame Mogyabun explained that the programme will help improve the culture for quality in the Ghanaian palm oil value chain in the face of fluctuating prices and other challenges such as export competitiveness and standards compliance of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to facilitate their access to international market.
She emphasised that the programme is aimed at assessing the culture for quality in the selected value chains using a UNIDO developed tool.
“The tool will help address quality and standard issues within the industry as well as the challenges of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
“UNIDO will then intervene to help address the identified challenges with SMEs in the palm oil, cashew and cocoa value chains; which include: technical competence and sustainability of national quality infrastructure system and selected value chains are enhanced, SMEs compliance with international standards and technical regulations is enhanced and also make sure awareness for quality is enhanced in Ghanaian palm oil value chain.
“Based on the work we did, we realised that the value chain areas requiring the most intervention are quality infrastructure institutions and enterprises within the supply value chain.
“The stakeholders involved at different stages of the oil palm value chain are: small scale producers and processors, large scale producers, processors, distributors, exporters, consumers, government, conformity assessment bodies and support organisations and opinion formers” she said.
Deputy Director, in charge of Operations at the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA), Foster Boateng explained that the TCDA was inaugurated in September 2020, as a regulatory body for six tree crops namely Cashew, Shea, Mango, Coconut, Rubber, and Oil palm.
“We are still fine tuning our five-year National Tree Crop Strategy for the various sectors with our industry players within the Palm oil value chain to help develop the potentials of the local Palm oil subsector.
“We are also developing a digital platform to consolidate all Palm oil farmers and eliminate the problem of geographic boundaries. With this achieved, we can interact with stakeholders consistently while providing them resources to increase productivity and quality.
“Demand for palm oil accounts for more than 20% of global edible oil market and has the potential to rake in $2billion in terms of export according to surveys.
“From 2019 to 2021 Ghana produced about 850,000 tons locally, exported 600,000 tons and imported 1.17 million tons, additionally the sector employs over 2million people in Ghana only” he added.
Eastern Regional Officer for the Food and Drugs Authority, Anita Owusu-Kuffour explained that their job is to regulate food, drugs, food supplements, herbal and homeopathic medicines, veterinary medicines, cosmetics, medical devices, household chemical substances, tobacco and tobacco products, blood and blood products as well as the conduct of clinical trials protocols in Ghana.
“The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of all foods including palm oil for domestic consumption and export.
“The FDA, as part of its mandate is to rid the market of adulterated food products, monitors palm oil annually for Sudan dye adulteration.
“One of the interventions being introduced is a simple traceability system to allow for trace back to specific suppliers to facilitate timely regulatory actions and quality.
“The FDA is discussing with stakeholders on the need to develop rapid detection tools for Sudan dye” she revealed.
Scientific Officer at the Ghana Standards Authority, Nathaniel Kofi Brakoh mentioned that quality and standard can be achieved if we develop and improve our infrastructures within the palm oil value chain.
“Other crops such as cocoa and cashew have standards and regulations, so we thought it wise that we also regulate palm oil to enable the country to reap more benefits from it” he said.
President, Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana (OPDAG), Samuel Avaala explained that the Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana (OPDAG), is a private sector industry association with the focus of promoting quality, socially responsible, ecologically and economically sustainable production, value addition and trading of oil palm in Ghana.
“Annual production of palm oil by our artisanal group is estimated 165,000 metric tons which forms about 55.6formthe total palm oil produced in Ghana.
“Out of these 165,000 metric tons produced, 99,000 Mt are sold on our local markets for human consumption and also for the production of cosmetic products such as soaps.
“The main challenge in achieving quality palm oil is because market women or traders try to conform to the demand and preference of consumers.
“Consumers prefer red palm oil, but per the biological nature of the new planting materials we use now palm oil is not reddish; so due to the preference traders and market women adulterate palm oil with Sudan IV dye.
“The adulteration is believed to be practised by aggregators and market women to increase sales, for the sole purpose of profit maximization, which is dangerous to our health” he revealed.
Coordinator, Global Quality and Standards Programme Ghana, Abena Safoa Osei in her closing remarks thanked the over 35 stakeholders representing the various actors for their time and rich contributions to help structure the palm oil value chain in Ghana and beyond.
“I strongly believe that we need a more holistic approach and well-mapped-out strategies to improve the culture of quality in Ghana and help deal with adulterate palm oil mixed with ‘Sudan IV dye’ she added.