FreezeLink, a cold chain logistics firm convened its maiden West Africa Agri Cold Chain Summit in Accra. The event held at the Ghana Shippers House on 25 October 2022which was under the theme ‘Unleashing Ghana’s Fruit and Vegetable Exports,’ brought together key stakeholders in the pharmaceutical and fruit and vegetable export sectors.
The discussions touched on the war in Ukraine and increased fruit and vegetable exports for Ghana; the connection between ‘pre-cooling’ and Ghana’s currency crisis; and the reason why African fruit and vegetable exports, on average, earn 55 percent below the global price for the same produce.
Export Forex windfall
Speaking at the event, the Country Manager of the multi-national airport handling company Swissport, Chris Goodsir noted that: “War in Ukraine is creating an energy shortage in Europe that will see greenhouses, used for growing fruit and vegetables, having to reduce their hours of operation.
The resulting shortage of fruit and vegetables means that exporters of these crops in West Africa have an opportunity to sell higher volumes of exports to Europe but at higher prices, too”.
Adding that, this window of opportunity to export temperature-sensitive food, by harnessing cold chain logistics, comes at a time when Ghana is desperately in need of export-driven foreign exchange.
Other experts further pinpointed opportunities for the fruit and vegetable export stakeholders in attendance. “We have enquiries from Spain, where they prefer our fruits. It is because GMOs in their own markets have reduced the taste of their home-grown varieties. We have an advantage” explained Marjorie Abdin, Vice President of the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE), while Samuel Yeboah, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of GIRSAL mused “we are 6 hours from Europe but Kenya is 12-14 hours away: if you see their horticulture exports to those counties, compared to ours, it will open your eyes to the opportunities in front of us, if only we grab them.”
In a speech entitled ‘Horticulture Exports – what the Winners in Africa are doing to succeed and how the public sector helps’ Dr Michele Bruni, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of InspiraFarms, an international cold chain equipment manufacturer, shared his experiences working across Africa – “Intra Africa trade is a hugely overlooked opportunity across the continent. One of our partners in Zimbabwe recently began selling apples in the Democratic Republic of Congo at higher prices than it sells them in its traditional market of Singapore. What makes these profits possible?” He asked, before adding, “Precooling and an unbroken cold chain. Precooling is critical. For every hour after harvest that produce is not precooled, it loses one day of shelf life. But poor quality pre-cooling can also lead to a loss of water, and therefore value” he warned.
FreezeLink’s CEO, Mr Owusu Akoto added another dimension to the infra-Africa trade opportunity. The company is close to finishing building a World Bank-funded refrigerated, fruit and vegetable terminal at Cotonou International Airport: it will enable Benin farmers of chilli pepper, mango, banana, pineapple and pawpaw to export their produce to high-value international markets.
“Initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) can only make their way from dreams to reality if we have infrastructure that creates connectivity. Cold chain represents such vital connectivity for the food and healthcare sectors” he said.
Public sector support
The conference also shed unusual light on the role of public sectors around Africa in promoting fruit and vegetables and of particular insight was a disclosure by Dr Michele Bruni “One visionary African country, who I cannot disclose just yet, will announce this year that all fruit and vegetable exports have to go through an unbroken cold chain. They are ensuring low post-harvest losses for their farmers, long shelf life and high prices for their horticulture exports. This rising tide will lift all ships”.
The summit was sponsored by a global provider of cold chain solutions, Carrier and ADDFRA, their local partner while Water for Energy and Food Grand Challenge (WE4F), a program focused on environmentally sustainable innovations aiming to improve energy and water efficiency in the agricultural sector, co-hosted the event.
One of the participants shares insights about cold chain during the Summit
From left to right, Glikou Folly Mike, Founder & CEO (Sunrise Plus); Marjorie Abdin, Vice President (Federation of Associations of Ghanaian Exporters); Chris Goodsir, Country Manager (Swissport); Amma Gyampo, Co-Founder and CEO (Scale Up Africa)