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General News of Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Source: GNA

Ghana to increase supply of medicinal plant exports

Accra, June 13, GNA - Ghana is to supply over six million dollars worth of Voacanga Africana, the country's leading medicinal plant export product, to major importers from Europe and China this year. The product, which has enjoyed a stable demand over the years, is in high demand, Mr Samuel Kwame Agyei, President of Botanical Products Association of Ghana (BOTPAG), said on Tuesday.

Addressing the press in Accra, Mr Agyei said the plant, which grows in six regions - Eastern, Volta, Central, Western, Brong-Ahafo and Ashanti - had an active principle used for memory enhancement in major Western countries.

He said although the medicinal plant provided employment and income for more than 8,000 collectors, the practice of uncoordinated harvesting posed a threat to the benefits that could accrue to individuals, companies and the nation as a whole. Mr Agyei said farmers in the six regions had begun harvesting the seeds immaturely ahead of the upcoming harvesting season, which commences in July.

He said low quality control protocols and assurance systems and lack of regulation could result in the supply of sub-standard products to the world market.

"Every year, Ghana loses over 40 per cent of potential supply volumes as a result of harvesting immature seeds. If this practice is not checked, the demanded volumes of this year would not be realised, resulting in loss of revenue and future opportunities for the country." Mr Agyei said BOTPAG had scheduled a series of sensitisation programmes to educate farmers on harvesting practices and other quality control measures.

Mr Dan Acquaye, Programme Coordinator for Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Product (ASNAP), said export earnings from natural plants had increased from 300,000 dollars in the 1990s to four million dollars currently.

He said it was unfortunate that this potential had not been developed although the country had a favourable climate to grow these plants.

Mr Acquaye said plant medicine remained a priority since about 65 per cent of developing countries, according to a World Health Organisation report, relied on it for treatment, hence the need for Government to support the industry.

Mrs Juliana Asante-Dartey, Country Director for ASNAP, said the organisation would continue to support the plant product industry in Africa through research and development of quality assurance systems and trade standards.

"Developing the potential of plant medicine will boost efforts to diversify the economy from being solely reliant on traditional export crops," Mrs Asante-Dartey said. 13 June 06

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