A farmer-based organization, Nyamebekyere Co-operatives Vegetable Farming and Marketing Society Limited has called on the government to prioritise organic farming to guarantee public health.

This will also facilitate rapid socio-economic development as well.

“Both organic and conventional agriculture could play a pivotal role in Ghana’s public health and local economic development”, field research conducted by the society indicated.

The society is made up of about 100,000 vegetable farmers in the Techiman Municipality of the Bono East Region, Sunyani Municipality of the Bono region, and Bechem and Tano North Municipalities of the Ahafo Region.

According to the society, vegetable production was very important for the socio-economic development, and health benefits of Ghana, significantly on job creation, income generation, tourism opportunities, as well as food and nutrition security.

But, it regretted over what it described as the influx of fake and adulterated agrochemicals in the market, which in the end were bought and applied by ignorant farmers.

“Inability of state institutions such as the Environmental Protection Authority(EPA) to regulate the agro-chemical industry in the targeted farming districts has led to adulteration and proliferation of harmful agrochemicals in the market”.

“The effects are enormous; low yields, poor market access, high level of chemical residue on vegetables and this is adversely affecting over 100,000 vegetable producers within the study area”, Dr. Gabriel Gbiel Benarku, lead researcher and service provider of the society told Journalists at Bechem in the Ahafo region.

Revealing findings of the research, titled “Public health concerns in vegetable value chain production: A case study in three regions of Ghana”, Dr. Benarkuu explained the vegetable industry was the main source of livelihood for many actors in the sub-sector value chain.

Ghana’s vegetable sub-sector offers great opportunities for growth given the steady increase of high-value domestic markets and export opportunities.

The domestic market alone is growing at more than 10 per cent per annum and the potential value for export vegetables is estimated at US$250 million.

This increasing demand could be attributed to the perceived health benefits associated with vegetable consumption.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2003), high vegetable or fruit intake could reduce ischemic heart disease and stroke by 31 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

But, Dr. Benarkuu indicated vegetable farmers faced a “critical regime where there are many sub-standard and unregulated agro-chemicals in the market”.

“The vegetable farmers are confronted with the challenge of human resources expertise and poor management of farms due to the inability of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to deploy adequate extension officers. This affects them greatly leading to their inability to manage disease outbreaks annually”.

As a result, the farmers experienced poor access to the market, due to poor quality of products, a situation he said was a serious concern to public health and safety.

“Chemical pesticides are commonly used in the management of pests and diseases in vegetable production in Ghana. However, there is increasing concern about the adverse effects this use has on public health and the environment”.

Dr. Benarkuu called on the government to adequately resource the EPA, Extension Division of MOFA, and the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA), and that would enable them to deliver their mandate effectively, and rid the market of fake agrochemicals.