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Business News of Friday, 28 November 2003

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Importers/Exporters of plants and animals urged to ensure certification

Exporters and importers of plants and animals were on Friday urged to ensure that they acquired the necessary certification from the appropriate authorities before shipping their products.

Failure to do so would lead to the rejection of their products at the receiving countries and that could cripple their businesses.

The advice formed part of conclusions drawn at a day's seminar on Sanitation and Phyto-sanitary Procedures for non-traditional agricultural and other related commodities, which was organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Accra.

The seminar, which was attended by representatives of Exporters and Importers, Freight Forwarders, Veterinary Officers and Customs, Excise and Preventive Services Officials, was to improve the working relationship between Quarantine Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders.

The Regional Director of Agriculture for the Greater Accra Region, Mrs Dinah Ayirebi said plant and animal quarantine activities were carried out to safeguard agriculture against the introduction of exotic pests and disease causing organisms.

She, therefore, urged the general public not to see these procedures as an extra burden to the already cumbersome process of clearing goods at both the Tema Harbour and the Kotoka International Airport.

Mrs Ayirebi said, "in this golden age of business, there was the need for vigilance at Ghana's points of entry because the importation of exotic pests and plants could erode the gains made form our revenue collection".

Mrs Ayirebi said: "If a disease is introduced into the country as a result of an infested plant or animal, all the money we have collected from our revenue agencies may have to be used for its treatment."

Dr Francis Konadu Ampratwum of the Veterinary Services Department, called for collaboration of all stakeholders at Ghana's points of entry to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases that affect plant, animal and human health.

"The outbreak of any disease could hinder the promotion of tourism and eradicating this disease could be very expensive."

Dr Richard Suu-ire of the Game and Wildlife Department (Accra Zoo), expressed concern about the ease with which animals, especially dogs and cats, were brought into the country without due certification.

He noted that the practice could be very dangerous since it could serve as an easy means of introducing diseases.

Dr Suu-ire said there were times when certificates accompanying some animals being exported have been forged, adding that such behaviour tarnished the image of Ghana when the forgery was found out by the recipient countries.

He said most exporters always wanted to have a cheap way out and would go to lengths to buy forged documents to facilitate the export of their products.