Yesterday I met with the founder of a pineapple exporting company in Ghana. He is one of the first pineapple exporters in the country, opening his operation in 1985. He is one of the founding members of Seafreight Pineapple Exporters Group (SPEG), and is the organization’s first chairman. He was trained as a pharmacist and originally went into pineapple export because he needed to acquire foreign exchange in order to purchase pharmaceuticals from abroad for his pharmacy business, and realized he was in the wrong business. Ghana was sitting on a gold mine with pineapples, yet no one had noticed it. He recognized that the proximity of West Africa to Europe – specifically, the UK and Germany – and the climate of Ghana made for a strong value proposition for growing pineapple. This man, along with a small group of primarily businessmen with no prior farming experience, established the export market for pineapples in Ghana.
Back in the ’80’s, there were only five flights per week into Europe from Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Because of the limited space available, the quality of the fruit sent to Europe was high and Ghana established a strong reputation for producing good pineapples. Only 10% of production, however, could be exported due to the constraints. As more airlines began flying to Accra, production was able to ramp up, but still was unable to meet the huge demand in the European market. So in the 90’s TIPCEE (Trade and Investment Program for a Competitive Export Economy) helped establish SPEG to promote higher export volumes. They were able to get transport time down from 21 days to 13 days, which reduced spoilage rates on arrival in Europe and increased Ghana’s share in the market.