ACCRA, Ghana, 31 January 2012/ Ghana News Association: Ghana’s interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU is the reason most local businesses such as the banana and pineapple are surviving today, Mr George Kporye, President of African Pineapples and Bananas Association (APIBANA) has said.

“Without the interim EPA we have no market and the banana business (export) will die. EPA allows us quota and tariff free access to the EU market, “he told Journalists in Accra at a press conference by the Association on Thursday.

Mr Kporye explained that already, the African producers were facing unequal competition with Latin American producers on the EU market because they export in larger volumes and therefore, signing fully the EPA with the EU would allow some leverage for African countries.

“It is actually important that Ghana government signs the EPA. If we don’t sign we will be subjected to tariffs and we cannot afford that in the face of stiff competition.”

“We cannot shut a significant market like the EU. There are some concerns that people have raised with the EPA, but these issues have been largely addressed. Every economy should look at expanding the market and not shutting it down,” Mr Kporye noted.

Ghana’s export is about 8,000 million Euros to EU market alone, he noted.

Mr Claude Maerten, Head of the EU delegation to Ghana stressed the need for Ghana to honour fully its part of the agreement to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.

He said since January 2008 when Ghana initialed the deal, the EU went ahead to unilaterally implement the agreement by granting total access duty free to Ghanaian exporters, so Ghana has to also respect its rights and obligations under the agreement.

“I am quite confident that the decision will be taken soon by government.

Meanwhile, Mr Maerten said the European Commission had made an amendment proposal to the agreement, which will now means Ghana and other African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries has up to January 2014 to sign fully the agreement.

If by 2014 Ghana has still sign, then she will have to look at other options available, which Mr Maerten indicated were not better than the current EPA.

Under the agreement Ghana can export about 300 million Euros (GHc600 million) more to Europe.

Government of Ghana wants to look at the details and the possible impact of the EPA on the economy as well as ensure that all parties involved are satisfied before finally committing itself totally to the agreement.

APIBANA, with current membership from Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, aims to enhance their position on the European market as far as pineapples and bananas exports are concern. They together account for 65 per cent (360,000 tons) of African bananas export to the EU and about 70 per cent (65,000 tons) of African pineapples export in 2010.