The coronavirus has a grasp on Europe, but the effects can be felt in countries where the virus hasn’t infected anyone just yet, like Ghana. Trade has come to a halt, as European buyers cancel their orders.
In Ghana there have been no confirmed cases of people being infected with COVID-19, however the European battle with the virus can be felt in Ghana as well, says Alex Kravecas, owner of mango exporter MakolaHub Fresh.
“Ghana does not yet have any cases according to the US's CDC, but Ghana is taking precautions at the airport by taking the temperature of all incoming people and they also have a questionnaire about each passenger's travels. MakolaHub is a small supplier that fills niche gaps in pineapple and papaya by air freight to Europe, on an inconsistent basis. But we are not doing anything now. The corona-virus has stopped all of our shipments.”
With some European countries on lockdown, some of the newly made contacts of during Fruit Logistica now have to bail out of orders: “We really started to notice it the past couple weeks. Just last week a customer, who I met at Fruit Logistica and was supposed to start a test shipment of papayas, said that the market there is dead due to bad weather,” Kravecas explains. “Currently the Coronavirus scaremongering is also having a serious effect. Catering orders are down currently 30 per cent and dropping further daily. Another buyer stated that ‘the virus is putting much pressure on the market in Europe’”
Should the virus continue for quite some time, MakolaHub will have to find other markets to offload their produce: “We will look for buyers in new markets like the Middle East, although they've been hit badly by the virus as well. We will just have to ride it out and hope the warmer weather brings and end to the virus. Luckily our mango season starts in May-June when the weather is warmer in Europe,” Kravecas stated.
He hopes it will work out, as they have big plans for the upcoming mango season: “This year we began leasing mango farms for 3-5 years in Ghana because quality has continued to be an issue for us. Getting export quality fruits has been nearly impossible in Ghana. We are no longer co-managing farms with the farmers, or giving them chemicals and then expecting them to do a good job on their own. We think the key is to lease farms and have our own farming team manage the farms entirely.”
Kravecas feels leasing the farms rather than just training will work out for both parties involved: “We are offering the farmers a guaranteed lease payment per year based on the size of the farm. Farmers seem to be very interested to work with us because they've been struggling for many years and can no longer afford to properly manage their farms against diseases. We think that this new model will eventually spread like wildfire with farmers across Ghana because during the 3-5 year lease period they will earn more money, on average, than they would have made if they cultivated mangoes on their farm...without all the risk of investing in chemicals, labor, and having to find a market. We also think it will grow quickly with the farmers because once the 3-5 years are finished, they'll realize we have improved quality and yields on their farms, which they can benefit from moving forward,” he concluded.