Farmers and women groups engaged in the shea butter and groundnut business in the Upper West Region say they have lost about GH¢5 million in revenue after their produce was downgraded on the international market for containing traces of a chemical called pirimiphos-Methyl.
The chemical, they alleged, was being used by AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control Ltd (Agamal) in their malaria control programme in the region.
According to the farmer groups, 22 tonnes of their last consignment exported by an aggregator, Ideal Providence Farms, was downgraded by 50 per cent due to high level of pirimiphos-Methyl residues.
“This led to a loss in value of about €11,000 and two more containers in detention. There are also reported cases of death of livestock after consuming contaminated groundnuts,” the group said in a petition which gathered close to 100 signatures.
The petition was addressed to the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng,asking him to intervene in the matter which was threatening small industries and the livelihoods of more than 3,000 women and the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary. The petition was also copied to relevant ministers and regulatory agencies.
The petitioner’s case
According to the petitioners, IDEAL Providence Farms, Guli Tihitaribu Women Co-operative Shea Butter Processing Association and the Namtiaha Women Association of Kperisi, they had recorded high level of pirimiphos-Methyl in their shea butter products exported.
“An investigation into the situation traces the source of the contamination to the residual effect of spraying pirimiphos-Methyl in the locality as part of the Malaria control programme of Global Fund implemented by AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control Limited (Agamal).
According to the petitioners, they had drawn the attention of Agamal to how their project was affecting the shea butter export and local groundnut industry.
“Analysis has shown that the pirimiphos-Methyl (when sprayed) takes an average of six months to break down and thereby leaving residues in the shea butter.
“The last spraying of the area occurred on April 27, 2016 and up to date the residual effects of the spraying continues to show in the exported shea butter and groundnut sold in the local markets,” the group which belongs to the Ecological Organic Agriculture Platform of Ghana, claimed.
The petitioners want the next spraying exercise scheduled for April this year to be suspended, while they join hands to find remedies.
Responding to the claims, The Public Relations Officer of AGAMaL, Ms Alberta Bosumtwi, admitted receiving a complaint from the groups about the residues of the chemical in their produce.
But she denied the allegations in an interview with the Daily Graphic, insisting that the company, which did indoor residual spraying, was not responsible for the contamination.
She said Agamal had several meetings with the forum and insisted on seeing results of tests that proved the claims, but that had proven futile.
“We also have the Ghana Standards Authority that can conduct the test to confirm the allegations or otherwise but they did not show us the result. We also offered to conduct a research to find out if there are other chemicals with the same active ingredients,” she explained.
Ms Bosumtwi said a market survey Agamal conducted indicated that the farmers were using other chemicals that had the same active ingredients, saying “it is possible the chemicals were used in storing grains or spraying farms,” she said.
“We are ready to collaborate with any independent body that will investigate the issue for an amicable solution,” Mrs Bosumtwi said.