Difficult access to affordable finance and elusiveness of modern industrial equipment and technology have been cited as major challenges undermining the development of the cashew processing sub-sector, especially among small-scale factories in the country.
These underlining industrial challenges have culminated with factors such as high labour cost and unfavorable electricity tariff to push many small-scale cashew processing factories out of business, Matthew Kwadwo Sah, Manager of Kabile Cashew Farmers’ Cooperative Company, has said.
“We lack funds to put up befitting processing factory buildings, warehouses and acquire state-of-the-art equipment. Besides, small-scale processors don’t have the financial muscles to compete with exporters for raw cashew nuts (RCN). We’re unable to work at our optimal production capacity to create job more opportunities. The prevailing interest rate is a huge disincentive for agro-processors of our caliber,” Mr. Sah said.
There used to be about 13 cashew processing factories in the country, but only three are currently operational; the rest-of which many are small-scale factories have shut down. Kabile Cashew Farmers’ Cooperative Company at Kabile near Sampa in the Jaman-North District of Bono Region is the only surviving small-scale factory.
The cashew processing company which relies heavily on hire-purchase for RCN, he indicated, has a production capacity of 280 metric tonnes per year, but it is currently producing about 120mt/year. At the peak level, the company can engage 85 people. Currently, its staff strength is 65. He alluded to the massive socioeconomic benefits agro-processing and therefore appealed to authorities to create the enabling environment to boost cashew processing in the country.
The small factory produces cashew kernel for the local market. The operation of the company is largely manual with some obsolete equipment like wood fuel-powered steamer and dryer, and a single shelling device among others.
Mr. Sah’s appeal comes on the heels of a similar call by Patricio Lima Assis, Managing Director USIBRAS Ghana Limited, a cashew processing factory at Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, advocating a comprehensive and industry-specific policy to revive the ailing cashew processing sub-sector in the country.
These came to light when Mr. Sah conducted members of the Ghana Agriculture and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) around the facility. The tour of the company formed part of field visits jointly initiated by the GIZ Competitive Cashew initiative (ComCashew) and GARDJA for agriculture journalists to interact with actors in the cashew sector. This is one arm of an advocacy initiative by the two organizations to help create sustainable cashew sector in the country.
During a visit to a cashew farm at Kabile, Mr. Clement Anane, National Secretary of Cashew Farmers Association mentioned price instability as against the high cost of farm maintenance and inputs as a worrying issue, eroding farmers’ investments. He said the producers [farmers] over the years have been struggling to redeem their cost buildups. “At the beginning of the 2020 season, a kilogramme of RCN was pegged at GH¢7 but along the line, the price tumbled to as low as GH¢2/kg. Meanwhile, a farmer can only breakeven at GH¢6.5/kg.”
He commended the government for interventions such as the free distribution of improved seedlings and spraying machines to combat pests and diseases in order to improve production and productivity. Mr. Anane, however, urged the government to expedite action of the inauguration of the Tree Crop Development Authority to help bring finality to annual cashew pricing issue.
The President of GARDJA, Richmond Frimpong, on his part entreated authorities to institute the necessary structures and policies to help stimulate the untapped opportunities in the cashew sector. “If the Tree Crop Development Authority will be a panacea for the challenges affecting cashew, as we’ve been told, then the government and its partners must do everything to make it work as soon as possible.”