The Ministry of Trade and Industry has finally drafted a bill – now awaiting cabinet approval for onward passage by Parliament – for the introduction of an export levy on raw cashew nuts (RCN), CEO of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) Gifty Klenam has said.
The proposed Cashew Export Levy bill is expected to discourage excessive exports of RCN and promote value addition, aimed at reviving defunct cashew processing factories.
Only two out of about 13 cashew processing plants in the country are in business; the rest have shut down, largely because of unhealthy competition from exporters of the RCN.
The bill will also give birth to the much-awaited Cashew Marketing Board. The Board is expected to regulate all activities in the cashew industry. Many industry watchers and players are of the firm belief that establishment of a Cashew Marketing Board will be the catalyst to sanitising the industry and making the commodity a leading agricultural foreign income earner.
“I’m sure the bill will be passed into law before end of the year. But until it comes into force for the Board to be constituted, GEPA will do everything within its power to sustain the cashew industry,” Ms. Klenam told the B&FT during a field visit to some cashew grafted seedlings nursery sites in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The GEPA has funded the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana (CIAG) to produce 400,000 grafted seedlings in support of farm expansion and cultivating new cashew plantations. From a budget of GH¢600,000 released by GEPA, CIAG has contracted 15 private nursery operators in cashew-growing areas to produce the grafted seedlings.
The move is aimed at increasing annual production from 80,000 metric tonnes to 300,000mt in the next ten years. This is projected to increase export earnings from US$197million in 2016 to about US$3billion by 2027. It is a component of the ten-year cashew development plan that was launched in February this year.
The familiarisation visit took the GEPA boss and her entourage to Techiman, Jema, Kintampo and Wenchi, where she interacted with the grafters. She was impressed with the progress of work and urged the CIAG to train more grafters, especially women and the youth, to serve as a vehicle for job creation.
Executive Secretary of CIAG, Aaron Akyea who conducted the GEPA team around, revealed that the demand for cashew grafted seedlings has soared exponentially since launch of the Cashew Development Plan. This, he indicated, underpins the need to scale-up production of seedlings to match the demand from farmers and other investors.
He however observed that in order to produce the required grafted seedlings, the GEPA must fast-track establishment of scion-banks to aid the process.
Under implementation of the Development Plan, 20 scion-banks have been slated to be developed. Access to scions for grafting has been identified as a challenge for the nursery operators. Currently, there is only one such scion-bank at the Wenchi Agricultural Station, but managers at the station have been rationing harvesting of scions there. This practice, according to them, is to help equitably supply its overwhelming dependents.
The Nursery Operators also mentioned their inability to erect proper structures, and consequently appealed for the GEPA to assist with inputs like shed-nets and iron poles for erecting appropriate nursery infrastructure. Due to the poor state of their infrastructure, most of the nurseries are at the mercy of adverse weather conditions.