Ghana stands to benefit greatly from expanding its market for sweet potatoes owing to the numerous economic and health benefits derived from the crop.
Sweet potatoes, which were grown locally as a cash crop for the shortest time, had been found to contain a rich source of dietary Vitamin A which is often deficient in the diet of pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as children under the age of five.
In Ghana, the deficiency had been found to be prevalent, with 70 per cent of children suffering to some extent from problems, which together with the lack of other nutrients, particularly iron and zinc, could lead to serious health problems including stunting, weakened immune system, retarded cognitive development, and, in extreme cases, blindness.
However, the Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP), which was currently being pursued, had evolved into a staple crop that was consumed as snacks, such as fried chips, thus the frying quality had become a predominant consideration.
Mr Edward Carey, the Country Manager for International Potato Centre (CIP), at a dissemination workshop of the Jumpstart Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) project, in Accra on Wednesday, called for policy revision for its inclusion as one of the priority crops for nutrition and food security.
He said the crop, with its high economic and nutritional benefits, had the potential of improving livelihoods of Ghanaians.
Mr Carey said the three-year donor-funded OFSP pilot project undertaken in three countries involving Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria, had shown bright prospects for the commodity.
In Ghana, the Northern, Volta and Central regions, were selected for the pilot to explore the potential of the OFSP, using markets as a driver for the adoption of the crop and to ‘jumpstart’ steps for its sustainability and up-scaling production.
Dr Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read on his behalf, commended the CIP for the successful completion of the pilot project in March 31, 2017, and for the encouraging outcome.
He said the Ministry had taken notice of the hard work and efforts made under the project to explore distinct market opportunities in informal and formal markets for OFSP in fresh and processed forms.
“We promise to support the dissemination of OFSP and ensure it is demand-driven, thus stimulating its production, ensuring profits for producers, and nutritional benefits for a large population of consumers,” he said.
Dr Afriyie pledged the ministry’s commitment towards enhancing the capacities of smallholder farmers and their families who were mostly involved in the sweet potato value chain, to scale-up their operations and provide them with all the needed support for greater efficiency and to increase productivity.
Dr Erna Abidin, the Project Manager, CIP, said the project provided clean planting materials and quality extension support to farmers, leading to a diversified market and also ensured training for caterers and bakers, introduced new recipes into the local Ghanaian dishes, as a way of sustaining the value chain.
Source: Ghana/ClassFMonline.com/91.3FM/Sammy Adjei