The vegetable industry in Ghana can be regarded as having three distinct components: (1) commercial/market gardening areas sited around principal cities such as Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale; (2) a form of truck farming in which vegetables are produced in rural areas from where they are purchased by contractors or middlemen and transported by road to the cities; (3) small domestic or backyard gardening.
Most of the fresh vegetables required in Ghana can be grown in the country, with the exception of Irish potatoes and other vegetables which require cool temperature conditions.
The External Trade Statistics of Ghana show that large sums of money are spent each year on importing vegetables and vegetable products (Table 1).
Many factors hinder the production of vegetables in Ghana, including poor husbandry techniques, shortage of seeds at the required time, a poor extension service, insufficient use of fertilisers, unreliable rainfall, inadequate irrigation facilities, a lack of organized vegetable processing and marketing and the low income derived from most of the crops during the regular growing seasons.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the USAID are the two principal sources from which seeds can be obtained, although a few department stores sometimes sell seeds in small packets.
The cultivars sold in such stores are often those which have not been tested in the country and, as a result, most of them do not do well.
In addition, these seeds are often purchased by upper-class housewives who take up gardening as a part-time interest and hardly any seed reaches growers who are interested in vegetable cultivation, since they rarely visit these stores and have no alternative source of supply.
The vegetables most commonly grown in Ghana are: tomato (Lyco-persicon esculentum), onion (Allium cepa), shallots (Allium escalonicum), okra (Hibiscus esculentus), egg plant (Solanum melongena), local spinach (Amaranthus spp), Indian or Gambian spinach (Basella alba), sweet and chillipepper (Capsicum annuum), and hot pepper (C. frutescens). These vegetables find a ready market, not only in the cities but also in the rural areas.
The exotic or European types of vegetable are grown mostly for the foreign population in the country.
The yields of exotic vegetables such as cauliflower and carrots are often low and the quality is sometimes poor.
Lettuce is becoming increasingly popular in the cities and does extremely well almost throughout the year.
Another crop which is gaining in popularity is cucumber.
Tomato, onion, hot pepper, okra and egg plant are probably the most popular vegetables in Ghana.
Hot pepper, okra and egg plant are relatively easy to grow since they are tolerant to the climatic conditions and may be grown as rainfed crops.
Tomato and onion are more difficult to