Bernard Okutu, Managing Director of Calli Ghana, a multinational agro-input supply company, told Cocoa Post that industry stakeholders have observed the worrying trend, which he fears is being exacerbated by the rising cost of authentic products.
“We are having substandard products on the market, and just last week CropLife Ghana organised a meeting with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure we clamp down on counterfeit products that are on the market,” Mr. Okutu said.
Effects on soil and productivity
He emphasised that the agrochemical suppliers’ fraternity is quite concerned, “because a farmer does not have the ability to test whether a product is good or not, as far as they can afford it, if it’s cheaper they go in for it”.
He warned of serious implications for Ghana’s agriculture and food security if the situation with substandard fertilisers and agrochemicals is allowed to fester. The Calli Ghana boss stated: “That as well affects the soil quality, which will then also affect the productivity”.
Health implications for consumers
Ghanaian authorities, including the Ghana Cocoa Board, have been encouraging farmers to explore organic alternatives in the wake of rising costs for conventional plant nutrition and pesticide products.
But that call, though commendable, stakeholders say might not help – as the share of organic pesticides in the agrochemicals market locally is negligible, hence farmers resort to cheaper and substandard alternatives.
Bernard Okutu stressed that: “If we are buying sub-standard products, what it means is that residue levels on our produce will be very high and our health issues will increase as well.”
He assured that local input suppliers are committed to ensuring food security, although fertiliser imports are coming at a very high cost. “We are trying to augment the granular with the foliar which is a bit cheaper, to ensure that the farmers can be supported to reduce the food security issues we might have in future,” he said.
Salvaging the situation
He reposed confidence in the EPA and industry stakeholders collaborating to nip in the bud the growing prevalence of substandard pesticides on the market. “They have taken some actions, and I believe that if they are continued we will be able to salvage the situation,” Mr. Okutu noted.
Exchange rate challenge
The global cost of agrochemicals is increasing due to supply chain challenges in recent times, a development linked to the Russian-Ukraine situation. However, in Ghana retail prices of pesticides and other agrochemicals are seeing unprecedented hikes due to exchange rate challenges caused by a fast-depreciating local currency.
Reacting to the situation, Mr. Okutu disclosed the exchange rate challenge “is impacting a lot of companies that are importing the input, like us”.
No more credit for retailers
Mr. Okutu said: “We are currently trying to manage the situation with some forwards at the bank. But you know that forwards also come with a cost.” He regrettably said: “Now, most companies are doing cash basis instead of giving credit for 40-45 days as we used to do a year ago. That is being reduced because you need the cash as early as possible to turn it around and pay your supplier”.
Mr. Okutu explained: “Typically, for an organisation like us that imports and distributes, if the exchange rate is not stable it affects our final prices and also paying our supplier. We need an improvement in the economy; obviously, exchange rates will have to be stabilised to ensure that businesses like us have the ability to continue into the foreseeable future,” he underscored.