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Ghana: Farmers divided over EPA

Myjoyonline Ghana | 18-Dec-2007

Farmers divided over EPA

A sharp contrast exists in the views expressed by pineapple and poultry farmers on the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, also known as EPA-lite, signed between the Government of Ghana and the European Union (EU) on December 13, this year.

While pineapple growers and exporters see the deal as one that will boost their businesses and so have lauded the government for it, poultry farmers are of the view that the move will hurt the local poultry industry and ultimately result in the near collapse of the industry.

The President of the Sea Freight Pineapple Exporters Association, Mr Stephen Mintah, said the signing of the agreement meant that Ghana’s trade with the EU would not be disrupted and, therefore, pineapple exporters would continue to export to that market without restrictions.

He explained that Ghana would have access to the EU market duty-free, just as the nation had under the Lome Convention or the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).

He said the deal would help the business of pineapple exporters to flourish, adding that farmers of the produce would be secure.

"Small growers will continue to be in business. Artisans who provide services like transport, Packaging materials, chemicals, fertilisers and other items that we use will continue to be in business. All these people would have lost their businesses if the EPA-lite had not been signed," he added.

Mr Mintah said pineapple growers were not of the view that the EU had ulterior motives in asking African countries to sign the deal, adding that the liberalisation of the African market, which the EU was demanding as part of the deal, would not be forced down the throat of the continent in the next few years.

He explained that although the EU was demanding the liberalisation of African markets, Africans were required to do so in 25 years.

"Even with the liberalisation, we are required to liberalise 80 per cent of our market, while they will liberalise 100 per cent. This, certainly, is a good deal," he added.

Mr Mintah said with the signing of the agreement, Ghana’s economy stood to gain, as the deal would ensure growth.

"If we had not signed and had been disallowed from exporting our produce, can you imagine the effect it would have had on our businesses?" he asked.

The President of the Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association, Mr Ken Quartey, for his part, said the poultry industry in the EU benefited from huge subsidies, while the industry in Ghana did not, saying that situation made competition with poultry products from the EU very difficult.

"There is no chance of an under-developed agricultural sector like ours competing with theirs," he added.

Mr Quartey said it would also be difficult for the poultry industry to attract investors.

"If investors know that poultry products from elsewhere are dumped here, why would they want to invest in the industry here?" he asked.

He called on the government to revisit the question of Generalised Systems Preferences Plus (GSP+), saying that the procedure for that facility was neither as forbidding nor cumbersome as it was made to be.

What is more, he said, through the GSP+, a lot of Ghana’s exports would be covered and exporters would have duty free access to the European market.

 source: Myjoyonline