Boosting cashew production diversifies economy

Following the remarkable feat achieved by cashew exports from Ghana, which has emerged as the number-one exporter of cashew in-shell for the year 2016 – raking in US$981million into the Ghanaian economy – the country needs to pay more attention to the cash crop.

We are not the only producers in West Africa, since Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Benin, La Cote’ d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Senegal are all competitors in the sub-region. Though Tanzania is outside ECOWAS, it is also a producer on the continent, and we need to ensure we maintain top-spot.

Just last month the President was in Wenchi to launch a 10-year development plan for cashew, and part of the plan is to increase production – for which reason a mass-spraying exercise has commenced in Wenchi and environs to increase yield by at least 30 percent this year.

Apart from that, research methods are to be improved and marketing strategies developed, among others, along the cashew value chain so that additional business opportunities are created and farmers can earn higher incomes.

However, one area that needs more attention is processing since it is reckoned that only 10 percent of raw cashew is processed – even though the country has processing capacity to match production. Even though we are the world-leader in cashew in-shell exports, we should be targetting more processed cashew exports if our hard-working cashew farmers are to be compensated adequately.

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There are at least 13 cashew-processing companies in the country, but they have mostly been lying idle due to challenges in procuring enough raw cashew nuts to feed the factories. The country is said to lose some GH¢100million annually because of not processing enough cashew locally.

Africa produces 53 percent of the world’s cashew and global demand is on the rise, which means there is a lot of potential to benefit immensely from the cash crop – provided the right interventions are put in place to ensure the country maintains its comparative advantage.

Should the country process all the cashew it produces, there would be better returns for both the farmers and Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) – which invariably means the nation as a whole.

Ghana can diversify its agricultural produce effectively by boosting cashew production. The industry has grown initially from 4,000 metric tonnes in 1997 to around 70,000 metric tonnes in 2016.

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