Government has decided to establish a ‘Tree-Crops Development Board’ instead of the initial plan to establish a Cashew Development Board, which will promote not just cashew but other non-traditional tree crops like oil palm, rubber and mango.
The Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led administration had intended to establish a Cashew Board, similar to Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), to spearhead the development of only cashew across its value chain -but it appears cashew will now have to compete with other tree-crops under one apex body.
The Director of Crop Services at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Seth Osei-Akoto, confirmed the new development in an interview with journalists at Sunyani.
He said the move has become necessary following a series of proposals by actors in other tree-crop sectors, who have requested the establishment of separate development authorities such as the proposed Cashew Development Board – hence the decision to group all under one umbrella.
“Government doesn’t have the financial muscle to establish separate development boards for cashew, mango, oil palm, and rubber. We have therefore resolved to institute one body that will have oversight responsibility for promoting the development of non-traditional tree-crops across the spectrum of their value chains,” he said.
“Besides, government has also realised that other leading producer-countries such as Cote d’Ivoire have only one oversight institution for tree-crops but have achieved amazing performances. It is therefore not out of place to emulate their example. Hopefully, the new Tree Crops Development Board should be established by the end of 2018,” he added.
However, some cashew industry players and watchers have kicked against the move – arguing that it will reduce the attention cashew would have received under a separate development authority.
An industry-watcher, Francis Manu-Gyan said: “COCOBOD has the responsibility to promote the development of coffee and shea trees in the country, but the focus has always been on cocoa to the detriment of the two other crops. Cashew could be relegated to the background and suffer the same fate as shea and coffee should government shelve the Cashew Development Board for a Tree-Crops Development Board”.
The Executive Secretary of the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana (CIAG), Aaron Akyea, told the B&FT that the move is “in bad taste and a stab in the back” by government after it had given advocates of the proposed Cashew Development Board firm assurance of its establishment.
He said the quick depletion of cocoa-growing land in the country, largely because of climate change effects, should prompt government to prioritise cashew – which is the best climate change adaptation crop.
“Cashew can be the magic-wand to revolutionise agriculture if government will commit itself to its proper development.”
The establishment of any apex board – apart from the Cashew Development Board -Mr. Akyea noted, has a potential to compromise implementation of the 10-year Cashew Development Plan.
The said cashew blueprint was launched by the president earlier this year, to expand production of raw cashew nuts from 70,000mt to 300,000mt and increase processing capacity from 65,000mt to 200,000mt, among others.
Statistics from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) indicate that cashew is the leading non-traditional export crop.
In 2016, foreign exchange earnings from cashew were about US$197million. The ten-year development plan is expected to yield about US$4.6billion in terms of foreign exchange revenue, but Mr. Akyea believes this can only be realised when there is a dedicated Board to champion that agenda.
Implementation of the 10-year Cashew Development Plan (2017-2027), among other things, is meant to support research and development to improve inputs and technology from the farm to export, produce over two million grafted seedlings annually, and expand production of raw cashew nuts (RCN) from 70,000mt to 300,000mt.
It is also expected to increase processing capacity from 65,000mt to 200,000mt, promote the production and marketing of cashew by-products, promote local consumption of roasted cashew products, and promote competitiveness of the entire value chain to create over 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The development programme is expected to benefit over 100,000 farmers, with about 10,000 registered farmers earmarked to benefit from a revolving credit of about GH¢3million.
The programme’s overall impact in terms of foreign exchange revenue is expectedly around US$4.6billion. Cashew is currently Ghana’s leading agricultural non-traditional export, raking in about US$197million worth of export revenue in 2016 – representing 53% of the US$3,371million receipts for the total agricultural NTE sub-sector.