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As part of efforts to ensure issues of food safety in the country especially within the fruit and vegetable sector are properly addressed, the HortiFresh in consultation with public and private actors in food safety and certification has inaugurated a taskforce with the aim of working towards solving the existing and emerging food safety challenges the country is battling with.

This initiative is made possible through the funding support from the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana.

Dubbed: the “Food Safety Taskforce” is a new body of Ghanaian stakeholders active in the fruit and Vegetable sector that deals with food safety.

The 20-member taskforce, made up of various stakeholders from research and knowledge institutes, exporter associations, processors and retailers of fruit and vegetables, regulatory authorities and agencies, development partners and agro input dealers roles among others is to help develop strategies and activities to address existing and emerging food safety challenges in the fruit and vegetable sector.

Hortifresh launches food Safety Taskforce

Speaking at the inauguration, the Programme Manager of Hortifresh, Mrs. Sheila Assibey-Yeboah shared highlights on the objectives of the taskforce, which include reviewing the food safety situation in the country and promote both international and domestic standards of fruit and vegetables.

In addition, the taskforce will also be responsible for coordinating campaigns and consumer education on food safety, as well as support the enforcement of food safety standards that exist in the country.

She hinted that Hortifresh will play a facilitating role to support activities of the taskforce which span from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021 and beyond.

At the event, the Policy Officer in charge of Agribusiness at the Netherlands Embassy, Mr. Abdulai Abdul Rahman expressed his outfit’s joy to be associated with the initiative of bringing together representatives from the public regulatory bodies, private actors, producers, consumers and the media to start a campaign to contribute to the sanitary and phyto-sanitary environment of fruits and vegetables in the country.

“This collaboration will help reduce the incidence of food related diseases, ensure consumer confidence in fruits and vegetables in-country and in so doing promoting agribusiness and international trade in the sector”, he furthered.

According to Mr. Rahman, the taskforce will push the agenda for food safety and improve consumer confidence. He expressed appreciation for the initiative to all stakeholders gathered and challenged them to make horticulture sector more attractive also in the context of youth employment.

Poor food hygiene is a significant risk to public health globally, but especially in low and middle-income countries where access to sanitation, and general hygiene remain poor.

Ghana’s peculiar cases in food safety which include the use of sewage water in vegetable productions, spraying of vegetables with pesticides and the use of bad chemicals in vegetable production still remains a challenge which ought addressed holistically, hence the need for the Food Safety Taskforce to be inaugurated.

According to the Chairman of Hortifresh Advisory Board, Mr. Samuel Asante-Mensah, the role taken up by the taskforce is such a ‘great important national role’ which when effectively played is likely to improve health conditions in the country.

While commending members of the taskforce for their willingness to serve, Mr. Samuel Asante-Mensah who also doubles as the chairman of the occasion, charges all members to be committed to task with all seriousness so as to ensure that the task is accomplished.

At the launch, representatives of various stakeholders present took turns to add their voices to calls for food safety issues to be addressed in the country. They equally expressed hope in the taskforce to deliver to meet expectation.

The stakeholders include Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Authority (FDA), Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Green Label Certification Scheme. Others stakeholders from the private sector include Eden Tree, Melcom Ghana, GNTTTA and the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association.

HortiFresh is a program supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands which has prioritized commercial agriculture in its strategic plan moving from aid to trade. The programme’s mission is to establish “a sustainable and internationally competitive fruit and vegetable sector that contributes to inclusive economic growth, food and nutrition security” in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

© Joseph Kobla Wemakor

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