…to stop post-harvest losses, boost exports
The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) is pushing for the setting-up of radiation facilities across the country to support the food export market as well as prevent post-harvest losses.
According to the Commission, radiation is one of the best methods to address the perennial post-harvest losses recorded by farmers yearly; and it is about time the nation gave it some serious attention.
Food irradiation, which is the application of ionising radiation to food, is a technology that improves the safety and extends the shelf-life of foods by reducing or eliminating microorganisms and insects.
The expertise is used globally to preserve food and medicines, especially for export.
The Director General of GAEC, Prof. Benjamin J.B. Nyarko, told the B&FT that with the progress made in the agriculture sector – with the coming on board of the Planting for Food and Jobs – some efforts need to be put into preservation to ensure the excess food that will be generated can be properly stored for export.
“We are advocating that we build radiation facilities nationwide. This will help to reduce post-harvest losses. Even for the 1 District 1 Warehouse initiative, we have to fix radiation facilities in there. These warehouses are to store the food; but if you don’t find a good way to preserve the food while they are in the warehouse, it will go bad. When they go through radiation, they can stay for 10 years and be as fresh as they were originally. So, that is what we are pushing.
“When you go to India, all the drugs that are exported go through radiation so that the ingredients in the drugs remain intact for a long time. We don’t grow apples here in Ghana but we love apples; how do you think those apples that come from South Africa are kept fresh and shipped or flown into the country? They go through radiation and are kept fresh. We are lucky to have people who are ready and have the knowledge in this field; not every country has it, so we have to use them,” Prof. Nyarko said.
Cost of establishing
He disclosed that it would cost about US$5million to establish a facility. He said apart from government private investment into establishing the facility, it will be very profitable considering the nation’s future export market.
“When the Vice President visited us, we told him about it and we are confident that it will be incorporated into the 1 District 1 Warehouse programme. Apart from that, we also want some private investment in that sector. Ghana has the ability to supervise and we can give licences for operation; it is not cumbersome and not expensive to venture into,” he said.
He said players in the export market can come together and put up a facility to serve their purpose.
“Many exporters sometimes have a whole batch of goods rejected because there was a weevil in there somewhere. So, it would be a good investment. If you radiate the mangoes and other foods that we export, we would not have these cases where our foods are rejected when they get to the European market. I am surprised that investors are not coming into the field, because it is a huge business in India, South Africa and other places.”
Radiation Effect on food
He dispelled the notion of any negative effect in connection with radiation of food, saying the process kills microorganisms and insects and does not make the product unwholesome.
“Radiation is like X-Rays; when you go through X-Ray you do not die. It kills whatever is on and in the product that can make it go bad, and the product stays good.”