Save the African Cashew Industry from collapse

Cashew, one of the country’s foremost non-traditional exports in Ghana, is facing plummeting fortunes after suffering long years of neglect, resulting in it recording a negative 17.5 percent growth in 2014. The cashew industry, the African Cashew Alliance said, requires urgent attention to save it from imminent collapse, which would throw thousands of farmers and others whose livelihoods depends on the crop. The Alliance, which promotes the production and processing of cashew, noted that the sector is in dire distress due to lack of favourable policies, sound credit rates, and inability of local production to match processing capacity.

“A lot of cashew processing factories have closed down. Out of the ten processing factories that were there up to the beginning of last year, only two of them are still operating,” said Ernest Mintah, interim Managing Director of the ACA.

Mr. Mintah made this appeal in Accra, at a forum for the Africa cashew sector, organised by ACA as part of a series of meetings to discuss issues affecting the sector. As a result of the situation, thousands of people have also lost their jobs. A cashew processing factory with a 1,000metric tonne capacity, typically employs about 300 hands, and it is understood that as many as close to 5,000 Ghanaians have been affected by the closure of the factories.

“So, imagine a factory that has about 30,000 metric tonnes capacity. A lot of these jobs have gone down the drain. So, the government should see it as an urgent issue,” he said. Last year, he added, the government started some effort to regularise the industry by introducing policies, but these policies, he added: “were not well formulated.”

“It was also the case that there wasn’t sufficient consultation among the stakeholders of the sector before introducing the policies; and as a result, they had to withdraw this policy from operation.” The Chief Director of Crop Services at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Seth Osei Akoto, who has been championing the course of cashew, also called for more efforts to support the development of the sector.

“There is the need for us, as a country, to do more so that we can have enough raw nuts to feed the processing factories that are collapsing,” he said. He added: “We need to expand the production base, which of course, we can because we have a comparative advantage; we have mapped about 66 districts we can successfully implement cashew programmes all over. But there is a challenge and the challenge is that we are not putting in a lot of resources into the sector to enable us to expand production base.”

Other challenges facing the cashew industry, he added, include inadequate planting materials and lack of streamlining. 

Mintah, the Interim Managing Director of the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) has called on government to sign unto the Cashew Consultative International Council (CICC) to help address challenges confronting stakeholders in the Cashew industry. The CICC is committee of Cashew producing countries that facilitates and regulates activities in these countries with the aim of harmonising efforts of all stakeholders in the value chain of Cashew nuts.

Mr Mintah who made the call during a Stakeholder Visioning Forum in Accra on Wednesday aimed at formulating a vision for the sector until 2027 said the government of La Cote d’Iviore had taken the initiative to lead the setting up and signing of the CICC. In an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the sideline of the forum, Mr Mintah said current statistics showed that of the 17 countries currently producing Cashew nuts, only six had signed unto the Council.

“We have Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, La Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria and Tanzania, signing on to the Council’s agreement and who contribute 80 per cent of the cashew in Africa. These are countries that are really significant and once Ghana can join, we will be able to transform the sector,” he stated.

Mr Mintah said aside the creation of the CICC; individual governments of Cashew producing countries had embarked on some policy reforms to enhance the fortunes of actors in the sector and to increase production of the crop. “Notably among the governments is Ghana, which has inter-ministerial committee, including ACA to review and recommend short to long term measures for the sector,” Mr Mintah noted.

He said efforts around the cashew crop in Africa included; the creation of cashew inter-profession in almost all the cashew countries, accompanied by all the establishment of cashew processor associations to address issues in the value-added segment of the value chain. Mr Seth Osei Akoto, the Director of Crop Science at the Ministry of Agriculture, who represented the Minister of Agriculture, said it was important to increase production although there was nothing wrong with Ghana importing cashew to feed its domestic market.

Mr Akoto, however, said, it was relevant for the country “to plan and do more so that we can also have raw materials to feed the processing factories that are collapsing in the country,” adding, there was the need to expand the production base so that the volume for production could be increased. He said the country had a comparative advantage in the production of cashew nut but the challenge was lack of adequate resources in the sector.Mr Akoto said the ministry would consider signing onto the CICC to ensure the harmonisation of the activities in the cashew industry.

Participants at the forum said they were optimistic that the forum would draw a vision for the cashew industry in Africa to enhance the operation of actors in the value chain.