The imperative of a cashew apex body

President Akufo-Addo on Tuesday, February 21, launched the Ghana Export Promotion Authority’s (GEPA) 10-year Cashew Development Plan alongside the official opening of the 2018 cashew season. Cashew is one of flagship products, in terms of diversification of Ghana’s exports that the Authority wants to pursue.

Some industry players, though elated by the launch of the plan, are puzzled by the palpable silence on a board to regulate the sector, something they have long been advocating.

The 10-year development plan aims at almost quadrupling output of cashew through an aggressive expansion of acreage under cultivation, by supplying superior seedlings to mostly small holder farmers, while adding value to exports by processing 100 percent of RCN to yield about 46,000 MT of kernels and earn US$255 million by 2025. There is the potential for additional earnings from the processing of the cashew apple, as well as from the industrial utilization of cashew nut shell liquid(CNSL), derived from the waste shells after processing.

Currently, however, the industry is in near disarray, characterised by an installed local processing capacity that far exceeds local production of RCNs. Of about 14 processing plants, only two are in operation while the export of RCNs is dominated by foreigners. The foreigners’ aggressive purchase of raw nuts directly from farmers is encouraging an inflow of smuggled nuts from neighboring countries thus compromising on quality of Ghana’s RCN exports.

Instructively, Ghana’s most successful export cash crop, cocoa, is effectively regulated by Cocobod, which has, over the years, ensured that the quality of the country’s coca beans has been the best on the international market thus attracting premium price. A similar body is what the cashew industry urgently needs to thrive.

Ironically, though, it would seem there is another school of thought concerning which body should regulate this potential cash churner. The villain, here, could be Cocobod itself.

The 10-year Cashew Development Plan ultimately looks at the establishment of a Cashew Board among other objectives including, supporting research and development to improve inputs and technology from farm to export; expanding production of RCN from 50,000MT to 200,000MT; increasing processing capacity from 57,000MT to 200,000 MT and promoting the production and marketing of cashew by-products; while also promoting local consumption of roasted cashew products.

Other objectives are in the areas of promoting competitiveness over the entire value chain and developing suitable financing for the cashew industry.

 

President Akufo-Addo, observed that “towards the improvement of current yield, GEPA commissioned the cashew mass spraying exercise, involving the provision of GHS1.6 million for the spraying of some 30,000 hectares of cashew plantation.”

 

Additionally, the Authority has supported the development of nurseries to produce over 3.6 million grafted seedlings to cultivate 15,000 hectares annually by 2018.

 

All these are an integral part of the 10-year Cashew Development Plant, President Akufo-Addo emphasised.

Obviously, there is a clear indication of the administration’s commitment to developing the industry but given the current state of the sector, it is necessary to collate, organize and disseminate industry knowledge to assist players in the value chain to easily access relevant information for decision making and to facilitate business.

In sum, these critical issues will be best managed by an independent and focused board.

All efforts to establish such a body, early in the day, is necessary to it gaining traction.

Anything short of that is tantamount to the clichéd cart being put before the horse.

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