By Morkporkpor Anku, GNA
Dobro (GAR), Feb. 7, GNA - Ghana is to experience a boost in horticultural production and exports with the launch of the Exporter-Out grower financial product under the ‘’Access to Finance’' of the HortiFresh programme.
Supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, the financial product aims to improve the access-to-finance for smallholder farmers and export companies in the fruit and vegetable sector in a sustainable manner.
The signing of the Cooperation Agreement of the first Exporter-Out grower financial product between Joekopan, Rabobank Foundation and HortiFresh took place during the HortiFresh Fair at Blue Skies, a leading Ghanaian exporter of fresh fruits and producer of juices for the local market.
Ms Carola Schouten, The Netherlands Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, speaking at the event affirmed The Netherlands’ commitment to the growth of the horticulture sector in Ghana through its support of the HortiFresh programme.
She said the horticulture sector, by its very nature, could provide many jobs, exports and economic growth to Ghana in a sustainable way.
She called for the collaboration between the private sector, research institutes and governments, as this cooperation has been the key-to-success for the sustainable development of the horticulture sector in other countries.
Joekopan is one of the top three vegetable exporters from Ghana, and was a winner of the Vegetable Exporter of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014, while Rabobank from The Netherlands is the world’s largest AgriFood bank.
Mr Sjoerd Herms, Director and Senior Business Consultant at Advance Consulting, said in January 2019, the Rabobank Foundation provided Exporter-Out grower financing to Joekopan for investments in a dam and irrigation equipment, as well as for pre-financing of improved seeds to 60 smallholder farmers, who supply to Joekopan.
He said for HortiFresh and the Rabobank Foundation, the loan was the second engagement under a long-term partnership through, which a number of projects, particularly those with emphasis on smallholder farmers, would be supported.
He said the Exporter-Out grower financial Cooperation Agreement was the second HortiFresh financial product, which entails a loan to exporting companies.
Mr Herms, who is also a Consultant to the HortiFresh Programme said it was interesting to note that loans to the agriculture sector only comprise 4 per cent of the total loan portfolio of Ghanaian banks, while the vast majority of these loans were provided to cocoa companies.
The Consultant said improving access-to-finance for smallholder farmers and export companies was crucial in achieving this objective, as investments were required to improve productivity and marketing.
“Currently, financing is only available to a few companies,” he said.
He said Joekpoan investments in assets such as dams, irrigation and biological control measures would increase production in an environmentally sustainable manner.
He said pre-financing of improved seeds to smallholder farmers in their networks would have the same effect.
Ms Sheila Assibey-Yeboah, HortiFresh Project Manager, said the objective of the HortiFresh programme was to establish a sustainable and internationally competitive fruit and vegetable sector that contributes to inclusive economic growth, food and nutrition security.
She said HortiFresh would develop four financial products in the coming years to improve access-to-finance for smallholder farmers and export companies in the fruit and vegetable sector.
She said HortiFresh would support the uptake of the financial product in the sector by selecting suitable companies and financial institutions, assisting companies with the development of bankable business plans, supporting companies and financial institutions during the due diligence check, and providing agriculture and business support to companies and smallholder farmers during implementation.
“These services will lower the risks for financing institutions, and more than 10 Ghanaian banks have already showed firm interest in the Exporter-Out grower financial product,” she said.
Mrs Juliana Opuni, the CEO of Joekopan, told the Ghana News Agency that the support would help the company expand its operations and enable them employ more hands to improve on their work.
She said it would also enable them to engage more agronomist to help farmers in their day to day activities to increase on their yields.
She expressed gratitude to the management of HortiFresh Programme for the confidence repose in the company to continue to contribute to the sector.
At the event, various Ghanaian farmers and companies in the fruit and vegetable sector showcased their products.
There are Ruk Zwaan, AB Farms, Eden Tree Limited, Joekopan, Fruit masters, Tikola Limited and Iribov West Africa.