The Cocoa Organic Farmers Association (COFA), is advocating for an institutionalized quality and pricing standard for agricultural produce in Ghana. The group recommends that such standards could be developed by the Ghana Standards Authority for the entire value chain in the agric-sector, such that farmers and produce buyers could be guaranteed of greater satisfaction in their trade.
In furtherance of which, COFA suggests a Legislative instrument is developed and passed to regulate agricultural commodities standardization. Project Coordinator for COFA, Nana Kwame Gyamfi argues that such considerations could lend itself to the Cocoa and maize industry, as ‘a microcosm of Ghana’s agricultural landscape’.This call follows a study conducted by COFA to establish the impact of the absence of a legislative Instrument to guide agricultural commodities standardization using the cocoa and maize supply chain as a microcosm of Ghana’s agricultural landscape. It was aimed at evaluating the existing standards in the cocoa and maize markets in terms of measuring units, grading, and pricing and compare with standards set by Ghana Standards Authority. The study also considered supporting the identification of options for introducing developing a Legislative Instrument with a functional enforcement mechanism, to facilitate new standards in the marketing of maize.
Standards commonly used in Ghana
Findings from the study revealed that the commonest standards and or grades used for agricultural commodities in Ghana are mainly weights and volumes. In cocoa and maize marketing, the most commonly used standard is the weight.
Importance of Standardization
The Project Coordinator, Nana Kwame Gyamfi is of the opinion that in the wake of the increasing trade globalization, standards and grades play an essential role by defining the procedures and their effects especially in developing economies.
“Standards and grades serve as strategies for assuring quality and safety of marketers and consumers, niche definition, brand development and market penetration.” “Standardization and grading enable the producer to direct the goods of different qualities towards the market best suited to them. The task of middlemen becomes easy because they can communicate well the characteristics of standardized products to customers,” he added with reference to recent studies.
Mr. Gyamf noted that; “it helps to manage risks associated with human health from contaminants, pest residual and disease-causing organisms”.
Challenges in Enforcing Quality Standards
Nana Gyamfi noted that limited financial and technical capacity to implement food safety and laws or regulations in the case of Ghana, Liberia, and Malawi have been highlighted by the World Food Programme
Other challenges in the case of Ghana are the fragmentation of responsibilities to implement and enforce regulations and laws across different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) leading to uncoordinated and ineffective implementation.
Quality Standards of Buyers
The study further identified that “most buyers rely on physical observation in purchases of the commodity without testing”. Challenges from purchasing from smallholders include distant farm locations.
In some instances, buyers were reluctant to contract with farmers to produce quality commodities at agreed prices because companies which purchase from the traders may incur losses if contract prices fall below the agreed prices which may lead to a cancellation of the contract. On the other hand, if prices elsewhere are higher than the agreed price, farmers may sell it there.
Challenges in Institutional Responsibilities in Quality and Standards Development
Nana Gyamfi further noted that poor coordination among the regulatory agencies is a major setback to agricultural commodities market standardization.
Whereas some Regulatory agencies belong to different Ministries and Departments which affect their ability to effectively harmonize implementation, approaches, and enforcement of regulations developed by GSA others are centralized with limited representation at the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies.
In order to support the effective enforcement of standards, Nana Gyamfi has recommended the commitment of Government to support institutions effectively deliver on their regulatory mandate,
Nana Kwame Gyamfi has therefore called “not only education along the agricultural value chain but also a Legislative Instrument to enforce compliance and coordinate the activities of all institutions involved.”
The Project Coordinator expressed gratitude to the BUSAC Fund for their financial support to COFA to conduct the study as part of the activities needed to pursue evidence-based advocacy for “legislative Instrument (LI) to regulate agricultural commodities standardization”.