As part of its Fit For Market programme, Coleacp, the Brussels-based association that supports African, Caribbean and Pacific exporters to Europe, has contributed to a national plan to develop the fruit and vegetables sector in Sierra Leone.
Last May, Coleacp and three European fruit and vegetable importers were invited on an exploratory mission to the West African country, organised by Brussels Airlines Cargo.
The aim for exporters was to assess the potential to adapt the country’s current production to the growing needs of the European market for items like leafy vegetables, peppers, okra and aubergines.
The airline’s intention is reportedly to increase the loads on return routes, while helping to develop a competitive horticultural sector in Sierra Leone.
The mission allowed the delegates to meet representatives from the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and to inform them of developments to European phytosanitary regulations and the exporter registration system.
According to Coleacp, the association has received eight requests for support from exporting companies, producer cooperatives and service providers, as well as an official request from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Agriculture for capacity building in SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) control and certification.
Capacity-building activities have already begun, with technical managers receiving training in the basic principles of integrated crop protection, while one local expert was supervised by a regional trainer to strengthen his field of expertise.
This month, Sierra Leonean inspectors in charge of phytosanitary controls are set to receive regional training in Senegal, organised by Coleacp.