The European Union (EU) has inaugurated 224 on-farm housing units worth £5.918million for banana farmers in Kusunya of the Shai Osuduku district of the Greater Accra Region
The investment aims to improve farmers’ productivity, thereby largely improving the country’s banana exports and competitiveness in the EU market.
Beneficiaries of the project are farmers of Golden Exotic Limited (GEL), a banana-producing company at Kusunya in the Shai Osuduku district. Farm workers together with their families – totalling 800-900 people – are set to benefit from the housing units.
Explaining the motive for the initiative, EU Ambassador to Ghana, Irchad Razaaly, indicated the country’s competitive edge in the EU market has been decreasing; hence the need to support the sector to compete in the international market.
“We are here today to ensure and reinforce the country’s competitiveness when it comes to banana exportation to the European market,” he said.
The EU Ambassador noted that the intervention aligns with Ghana’s affordable housing policy, and the EU is glad to contribute to that cause with 224 housing units – which he described as the beginning of a project for about 1,000 units.
In a speech read on his behalf, Minister of Trade and Industry, Kobina Tahir Hammond, elaborated how the project will reduce the transportation cost incurred by GEL and directly increase the country’s banana exports.
“When fully allocated, it is expected to have a positive impact in terms of labour productivity and help reduce the company’s cost operations associated with daily transportation of workers – and the cost of fuel and maintenance for the over-60 buses that convey farmers from as far as Asutsuare and Atimpoku to the plantations on a daily basis. This will directly impact increased productivity and ultimately increase banana exports,” he noted.
He added that in the absence of support from the EU, there would possibly have been staff lay-offs.
According to Mr. Hammond, of the country’s 125,829 metric tonnes of annual banana production in 2022, 59,563 metric tonnes was exported to the EU market – a marginal decrease from 67,126 metric tonnes that the EU market received from Ghana in 2021.
Turning his attention to terms and conditions of the housing project, the minister stated that it will be leased to GEL for 25 years, subject to renewal; adding that the company will be responsible for maintaining the housing units as well as charging rent fees not exceeding government approved rates for public workers.
“Golden Exotic limited is responsible for the management, maintenance and repair of the houses and their physical and social infrastructure. Additionally, GEL will charge its workers rent not exceeding government’s approved rates for public workers,” he stated.
Ensuring the project’s sustainability, Mr. Razaaly mentioned that a housing board has been constituted and tasked to manage and maintain the houses and their social infrastructure, among others.
On his part, Vice President-Compagnie Fruitiere (parent company of GEL), Olivier Chassang, said with completion of the 224 housing units, the company is likely to save at least £50,000 or more if the facilities are well-managed.
Talking about GEL’s export capacity, he said in this year they have exported about 100,000 tonnes of banana mainly to Europe which represents about 90 percent; and 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes to Niger, Burkina Faso and other counties.
Currently, the company has planted 150 hectares of banana on the left bank of the Volta River and aims at planting 500 hectares – more adding that they are confident of increasing their export capacity to 500,000 tonnes in the next five years.
In response to how allocation of the 224 units will be done among 4,000 workers, Mr. Chassang said the houses will be shared based locations and how long an individual has been with the company.
The BAM packages
The housing project can be traced back to 2013, when the EU and government of Ghana (represented by the Ministry of Finance) signed a Financing Agreement (FA) for the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) package, at a total cost of £7.2million, to support the Ghanaian banana export industry become more competitive; thereby saving jobs and livelihoods of banana farmers and their families, and providing them with access to essential services among others.
BAM was adopted by the European Commission in 2010, as a support package to 10 banana-exporting countries (including Ghana) from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.
Of the £7.2million, an amount of £5.918million was used in construction of the 224 housing units – which commenced in August 2016 and suffered defects due to delays in completion and handing over by the contractor.