In a bid to promote high-quality oil palm production in the country, Solidaridad, an international civil society organization, in partnership with Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), will train palm oil producers in the last quarter of 2020.
The effort, expected to enhance market access for workers in the palm oil value chain in producing districts, would also ensure that finished products meet both local and international market standards.
Under the partnership, Solidaridad, FDA, and the Environmental and Health Units of all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) would train 260 artisanal mill owners and over 3,000 machinery fabricators and processors, to promote high-quality food safety standards among artisanal palm oil producers.
Capacities of environmental health officers would be strengthened while the Assemblies would be strengthened to monitor and enforce standards in the preparation and sale of palm oil.
A release issued by Solidaridad and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday said the FDA was statutorily mandated to work with the Assemblies, particularly the Environmental and Health Units, to monitor and enforce standards for the preparation and sale of food products in the country.
Solidaridad, on the other hand, through its Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme, had been working to transform the oil palm sector in the country by promoting best management and milling practices.
Therefore, Solidaridad's deployment of field officers in palm oil-producing districts would make up for the FDA's lack of offices at the district level that had hitherto, made it difficult for the authority to reach palm oil processors in the districts.
The release explained that under the partnership, a training programme, on food safety and good manufacturing practices in the palm oil production process would be held for workers in the value chain.
It would cover topics such as hygienic sterilisation and digestion of the palm fruits, identifying food safety hazards during processing, the use of potable water for palm oil processing, waste handling, test management techniques, cleaning and siting of milling equipment, and personal hygiene of workers at the mills, among others.
The effort would build on two training programmes that Solidaridad and the FDA recently organized at Boadua and Assin Fosu in the Eastern and Central regions respectively, for the staff of the Environmental and Health unit of the assemblies, the Business Advisory Centre, and Women in Agriculture Development within six district assemblies.
The release quoted Mr Nicholas Issaka Gbana, Oil Palm Programme Manager for Solidaridad, as saying that a substantial part of Ghana's palm oil imports could be sourced locally from artisanal palm oil producers if they met the quality requirements of both industrial users and palm oil exporters.
The requirements, he said, included palm oil with low free fatty acid below five per cent, low rancidity (having the right taste, smell and colour), and had no physical, biological or chemical contaminants.
"Our expectation is that our two organizations would pull resources together to support artisanal palm oil producers to meet these requirements," Mr Gbana said.
Mr Kofi Essel, Head of Industrial Support Services Department, FDA, is also quoted as saying that his organisation was pleased with the partnership, and expressed the hope that the collaboration would equip artisanal oil palm producers to process safe and quality products.
He added that food hygiene and safety should be a core element of all food preparation processes, including palm oil, hence the need for processors to obtain and regularly update their knowledge in food safety and good manufacturing practices.
Mr Essel advised consumers to stop demanding for palm oil with a redder hue, explaining that such market preferences cause some unscrupulous palm oil producers to add substances to the product to change its natural colour, which could compromise food safety.
Solidaridad and the FDA are pursuing this course as part of the implementation of the second phase of the Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) in Accra and the Swiss government through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
The programme seeks to contribute to the transformation of the oil palm sector in West Africa, increase incomes of smallholder farmers and processors, and generate economic growth and jobs. SWAPP II is part of Solidaridad's global agenda to build sustainable production for oil palm and other commodities.