Mr Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Thursday said in order for Ghana to achieve a middle income status by 2015, the country should not only increase its traditional agricultural export, but also diversify and modernize the agricultural sector.

“The horticultural sector, especially the fruit, vegetable and ornamentals, therefore presents an opportunity for the needed diversification, modernization and accelerating economic growth due to its high potential economic returns,” he said.

Mr Debrah said this at the Ninth Annual General Meeting and Scientific Workshop of the Ghana Institute of Horticulturists on the theme: “Achieving Middle Income Status in Ghana; The Role of the Horticultural Industry in the Millennium Challenge Account.” The workshop brought together about 200 professionals and students in the industry to deliberate on issue affecting it and find common grounds for advancement.

He said the horticulture industry could play an important role in supporting the government’s efforts towards achieving wealth creation and poverty reduction.

“The Ghanaian horticultural industry has grown rapidly within the last decade and has enabled Ghana to establish herself among the top six exporters of horticultural produce to Europe.”

He said total export, which stood at 9,800 metric tonnes in 1992, increased to 57,000 metric tons in 2000. By the end of 2006, the volume of horticultural exports reached 153,000 metric tons. The value of export had also increased from 28 million dollars in 2000 to 75.6 million dollars in 2006.

Mr Debrah called for high quality standards saying, “maintenance of quality standards will also improve our reputation and further assure our farmers and exporters not only of market for their produce but also the premium price paid”.

He noted that the horticultural industry was bedevilled with a lot of challenges.

“I would like to challenge you to critically study these challenges and others confronting the industry and carry out research, training and provide information to resolve these emerging challenges”.

Dr (Mrs) N. S. Olympio, President of the Institute, noted the need to establish a National Horticultural Research Institute which will help the country prioritize research in horticulture instead of having research carried out in several and unrelated institutions.

Dr Olympio called for closer collaboration with affiliating bodies adding that it would strengthen the institute to speak with one voice, especially to government, on policy issues affecting the industry.

He said: “If proper investment is placed into the horticultural industry, the development of the country will move faster than it is doing now.”

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