Savannah Golden Tree Limited (SGTL), an organisation committed to the development and promotion of shea, is exploring partnership options with Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to improve the shea gestation period and address the annual over 40 percent shea nut losses.
According to management of SGTL, over 40 percent of the shea nuts are unpicked and go to waste annually due to primitive collection methods deployed by the mostly female aggregators, as well as the long gestation period of about 17 years.
The Chief Executive Officer of SGTL – also organiser of World Shea Expo, Rashid Zakaria, indicated that the partnership arrangement with COCOBOD, especially its subsidiary Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), is important as it will enable knowledge transfer of best practices in the cocoa field to the shea space; and also because the institute has already done some research work in that field, leading to a reduction in the gestation period of shea trees from 17 to 5 years.
The CEO also emphasised that with factors such as long gestation period of over 17 years and export of raw shea butter still persisting in the sector, it is embarking on this partnership initiative to foster production and increase quality as well as add value to the shea butter before export.
“As part of our activities, we have been in partnership with COCOBOD; and we visited their substation located in Bole in the Savannah Region where they are concentrating on trying to come up with shea tree development models for faster and better quality yields.
“They have made a lot of achievements in that direction, because we were told they have been able to reduce the gestation period of the shea tree from 17 years to about five years. So, we have seen this as a major development that farmers and investors need to know about,” he said.
He noted that prior to this research work people did not want to plant the shea tree, so the whole industry depended on wild trees; but now that shea trees can start fruiting in just four to five years’ period – hence, it is important to woo investors in to start having plantations just as exists for cocoa, cashew, mango and other tree crops.
He made these remarks on the occasion of a working visit to the CRIG facility in Akyem-Tafo, Eastern Region, to be familiarised with operations of the institution and how best to research into value addition for shea products.
On his part, the Acting Director-General-CRIG, Dr. Francis Padi, said that the economic potential of shea far exceeds just shea butter production for domestic use; and so he is calling on entrepreneurs and investors to venture into shea production and processing to derive the early bird benefits from this low-hanging fruit sector that is about to boom.
Dr. Padi mentioned that government’s investment in shea research and product development has led to the development of special products and recipes for cosmetics, beverages and other consumables from shea which are on the shelves of the institute; hence, interested investors should come on board for mass production engagements.
“The Cocoa Research Institute works on five crops: Cocoa, Coffee, Cola, Cashew and Shea. In the area of shea, the institute has now developed technologies and techniques which can enable the farmer to grow shea and harvest it within five to six years if all things are done right.
“This development is to ensure there is all year-round abundance fruit for the various end-user products derived from the crop. The butter is used widely in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. So, what CRIG has done is to develop a range of products across the aforementioned areas – particularly cosmetics and the beverage industry – and is looking to entrepreneurs who will pick up the products like soap, butter, vitamin-rich products, beverages among others,” he said.
He also mentioned that the One District, One Factory (1D1F) initiative by government can be advantageous to entrepreneurs for establishing companies that will add value to products and create world-class products for export and create jobs for local communities.
The World Shea Expo (WSE)
The WSE is intended to highlight the local shea industry’s economic potential to attract the necessary attention needed to speed up government efforts toward diversifying export commodities and finding worthy additions to the nation’s primary export cash crops.
The maiden WSE held, in 2020, brought together investors, pharmaceutical companies, research organisations, players in the cosmetics industry, government agencies as well as women groups to promote the export of shea.