The food and beverage market in Africa is expected to grow three times its current value to reach US$1 trillion by 2030. A large chunk of this growth is down to the export industry which is largely made up of the huge amounts of fresh produce flown out of the continent daily.
Currently, agricultural products make up a third of Ghana’s total exports with cocoa beans and other fruits having the lion’s share. The trend appears to be changing as exporters of agricultural produce are diversifying to focus more on canned or processed foods. This is because exporting processed agricultural produce rather than raw commodities increases the value of the products and generates more business activity, creates jobs, increases income, and greater tax revenues among others.
One of such entity blazing the trail in this sector is Praise Export Services Limited, a wholly owned Ghanaian food processing company who has over the years mastered the art of processing agricultural produce for export to Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. The company which is located at Pokuasi has played its role in the steady increase of earnings on Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs), particularly in the last 5 years.
According to the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), earnings from Non-Traditional Exports increased from $2.84 billion in 2020 to $3.33 billion in 2021. Oil palm products which form the base of the company’s exports is listed among the top ten (10) leading NTE products for 2021.
Founder and Current Managing Director of Praise Export Services Limited Mr. Godwin Edem Adordie established the company in response to the challenge of food spoilage he witnessed while working in a grocery store in the UK. Large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables imported to the UK from Africa quickly went bad on the shelves in many grocery shops including where he worked. With the experience gained in the UK in dealing with perishable fruits and vegetables, Mr. Adordie returned to Ghana and established Praise Exports Services Limited in 1994, initially exporting fresh fruits, vegetables and tubers.
The Turning Point
The company was inclined to diversify its operations to focus more on exporting processed agricultural produce after a container fully loaded with yam went bad even before it arrived at its destination. The 2004 incident although tragic, gave the company a new perspective on exports as it begun to adopt advanced methods of preservation of foods such as canning and fermentation.
Mr. Adordie decided to pilot the processing of millet and other ingredients needed for the preparation of millet porridge, otherwise known in the local parlance as “Hausa koko” into flour. The positive feedback from friends and close relatives who had tried his “Hausa koko” flour spurred him on to diversify and include other agricultural produce to the catalogue of processed foods for export by the company.
Currently, Praise Export Services Limited processes and exports more than 10 food items such as the African Red Oil Palm, Palm Cream Concentrate, Pea Aubergine, pepper sauce (shito), Banku mix, Tom brown, Plantain, cocoyam and yam fufu mix among others. The company which currently has more than 160 permanent staff has also ventured into the export of processed agricultural produce such as gari, barbecue powder, chili powder and melon seeds.
After it was established, the company adopted the deer as its symbol to signify its core values which are grounded in growth and innovation. Head of Compliance and Training at the Company Mr. Mark Sepenoo said “A deer grows a new horn each year so we chose that animal as our symbol because at Praise Export Services Limited, we strive to be consistent in growth through innovative means.”
Oil Palm Fruit and its export potentials
Research has shown that Ghana’s economy cannot afford to depend solely on the export of Cocoa beans. This brings to the fore, the need to diversify and expand the export base of Ghana’s economy to generate enough foreign exchange for economic transformation.
In this respect, the palm oil sub-sector of the agricultural industry needs to be considered for promotion. Aside the numerous health benefits derived from the oil palm fruit, it is said to have positive improvements in the lives of those involved in the production and processing value chain.
Head of Compliance and Training at Praise Exports Services Limited Mr. Mark Sepenoo made a case for the prioritisation of oil palm fruits as Ghana’s main agricultural export commodity: “When you take the palm oil, right from planting to harvesting and selling of the oil palm fruits, you have a lot of people coming into the value chain.
The farmer derives his returns from the sale of the oil palm fruits. From the fruits you can get the palm oil, there is the potential to also get palm kernel oil, the shells of the palm kernel are also used in charcoal making and the fibre ends up as fertiliser. Even the stem of the palm trees can be used to produce alcohol after its useful life,” he noted.
In comparison to Cocoa which has been the main cash crop for Ghana, Mr. Sepenoo believes that palm oil “has more value on the local front than the cocoa seeds.”
In 2019, a year that saw many companies experiencing huge challenges due to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Praise Export Services Limited begun to record tremendous growth as demand for their products soared.
In the year 2020, when the global economy shrunk by about 5.2%, Praise Export Services Limited successfully exported 145 containers full of processed agricultural produce, making it the best year for the company in its 28-year history.
The company’s profit margin also hit a record high as a result. According to Mr. Sepenoo, the management of the company ensured no staff was laid off during the pandemic when job losses became the norm.
Awards and CSR
Praise Export Services Limited has received 9 awards over the last decade for its outstanding contribution to Ghana’s export industry. These awards include the Made in Ghana Awards ‘Hall of Fame’ for Food Processed (Palm Oil) in 2014; the Ghana International Star for Leadership in Quality – (Star For Quality Award) in 2015 received in Paris, among others.
The company is conscious of its responsibilities to the communities where its factory and farms are located. The company provided financial assistance, stationery and assorted items to St. Joseph Catholic School and Katapor Basic School at Pokuasi in 2019 and 2020 respectively to help facilitate their activities. The company donated furniture to the Mayera Faase Health Center at Pokuasi in 2022 and plans to do more in the coming years for educational and health institutions in the catchment area.