Richard Twumasi-Ankrah, Director for Policy, Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, has indicated that smallholder farmers are losing significant amounts of money in their quest to trade on the Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) platform due to inability to meet specified standards.
According to Mr. Twumasi-Ankrah, the smallholder farmers are usually found wanting when it comes to storage and handling the produce properly after harvesting to meet the required moisture content, among others.
“The challenge we have now is that smallholder farmers are unable to handle their commodities so there is a lot of wastage and surplus because the quality deteriorates before they bring it to GCX; and these are main challenges from the farm level to the interface where exchange takes place,” he said.
GCX is a platform or marketplace for buying and selling listed commodities such as maize, soya bean, sorghum, sesame and milled rice.
In response, Roseline Esi Amoah – Principal Scientific Officer, Ghana Standards Authority, stated that to be able to change the trend, it requires good agriculture practices starting from the onset of planting to harvesting and post-harvest.
She explained that when the first step is done properly, healthy produce will be obtained at harvesting stage, which then leads to the post-harvest stage of preventing pest and rodent infestation that mostly causes the damage.
“What actually happens is that the smallholder farmers do not have enough education on these stages and what to do, which actually leads to low quality of the produce to meet the standards. Every product has specific standards, so when the product does not meet them they will not be purchased – and that means the products are left to go bad,” she said.
Furthermore, she added that limited awareness and lack of understanding of specific commodity standards on the part of smallholder farmers are additional reasons for inability to produce and meet the specific requirements.
“Additionally, farmers don’t have enough financial support to be able to purchase the required equipment for post-harvest handling; therefore, they are not able to get their maize, for instance, to meet the Ghana moisture standard of about 13.5 percent,” she stated.
She emphasised that when the moisture content is higher than this, it makes room for deterioration and increase in aflatoxin content that lower quality of produce and buyers will not buy… leaving farmers as the end-losers.
Lack of storage and warehousing facilities at farm gates was stressed as well when it comes to causes of post-harvest losses, as well as not harvesting at the right time – thus causing over-maturity of products.
Chief Operations Officer-GCX, Robert Dowuona, indicated that the GCX is aware of the challenges and committed to helping smallholder farmers meet the industry standards; and as such is working hand in hand with Agric Extension Officers to educate and build the capacity of farmers so that they can handle the commodities properly.
“GCX has also what we term Agriculture and Farmer Support Officers (AFSO), employed directly by GCX and trained by GSA who actually go out on the field to interact with the farmers on a daily basis to educate them on issues such as moisture content levels; and we have provided moisture meters to help them test levels at the farm-gate,” he said.
These revelations were made at the maiden GCX webinar on the theme ‘The role of the Ghana Commodity Exchange in Ghana’s Agriculture value chain’.