Stakeholders in the Cashew industry have called on government to expedite action on a regulatory framework to further spur the sector’s development.
The stakeholders said lack of regulation in Ghana’s cashew sector is one of the main factors inhibiting growth of the sector, particularly the processing aspect of the value chain.
Speaking at the opening of a five-day Master Training Programme (MTP) for Cashew sector players from 12 countries in Africa, Ms. Rita Weidinger, Executive Director of the Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) – formerly the African Cashew Initiative – said though Ghana had made strides in development of the cashew sector, the regulatory framework is not yet such that the processing sector can be competitive and it needs to be addressed.
She explained that while there were 12 processing factories in Ghana, only three are currently functional.
She said regulation should cover areas like licencing traders in cashew, with minimum standards, in order to sanitise the market. It should also cover quality standards for the cashew, both raw and processed, as it will determine the product’s price on both the domestic and international markets.
“Another area of regulation would be to certify improved planting materials. Farmers should have quality planting material, and they should be certified,” she said.
She noted, however, that the industry in Ghana is on the right track – with several interventions by the ministry and partners which will see the sector overtaking the cocoa sector as a major export commodity, in some 20 years.
Interventions focusing on research and development of improved planting material – initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Cocoa Research Institute, she noted – have led to Ghana becoming one of the highest producers of cashew in the sub-region, producing about 700 kilos per hectares, compared to between 300 and 500 kilos per hectares in the sub-region.
“If we continue with these strides, with the new commitment of government, then the sky’s the limit; Ghana can be the centre of excellence for the cashew sector,” she said – adding that the process for the regulations is already underway by government and its partners.
Mr. Kennedy Osei Nyarko, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in charge of Perennial crops, said government recognises the importance of Cashew and the potential it holsd for rivalling cocoa – thus launch of the 10-year Cashew Development Plan to expand production and promote competitiveness of the cashew value chain.
“Cashew is currently Ghana’s leading non-traditional agricultural export crop, raking-in about US$197million in revenue in 2016. This constituted about 53 percent of the US$371million total revenue received from the non-traditional agricultural export sub-sector,” he noted.
He added that the Cashew sector will have a Development Board to provide direction in the plan’s implementation. Government, he said, is also in a tripartite cooperation with Germany and Brazil aimed at complementing technical contributions and applying the knowledge, skills and experiences of the three countries to their cashew industries.
He stressed the need for strong commitment by governments through policy and other interventions to optimise benefits of the crop, and for knowledge-sharing to sustain momentum in the industry.
Mr. Ernest Mintah, Managing Director of the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), noted that increasing processing of cashew – from the current less than 10 percent processed to about 25 percent – will have a tremendous impact on poverty reduction, as it will generate over US$100million in household income for rural families.
This potential is what underscored need for the Master Training Programme, designed to develop cashew experts endowed with knowledge and skill in the cashew value chain in order to become change-makers.
The programme trained over 250 experts in the previous edition. The current training is the first session of the fifth edition of the MTP organised by ComCashew in partnership with the ACA, and with support from the MoFA and Cocoa Research Institute Ghana.
Attending the training are 77 cashew experts from 12 countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Togo, Benin and Sierra Leone.