Gov’t to revive collapsed cashew factories

 Government has, as part of its industrialisation drive, outlined measures aimed reviving all collapsed cashew processing factories in the country.

Key among the steps is a joint effort by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and the Exim Bank to offer financial support for the retooling of troubled factories to use state-of-the-art technologies to ensure efficient processing for optimum output.

There are 13 cashew processing factories in the country, with a total production capacity of about 65,000 metric tonnes. The majority of cashew factories are small-scale and situated in the Brong Ahafo Region, which is the cashew hub of Ghana.

Challenges such as lack of capital to compete for the raw nuts and use of obsolete machines have caused most of the plants to fold-up, leaving only two in operation.

In an interview with B&FT, the Deputy CEO of GEPA, Eric Twum, said government is committed to retooling all cashew companies to revive and sustain processing rather than exporting raw nuts.

“GEPA has got in touch with those factories that need support; an audit will be conducted to ascertain the exact support that each firm will require.”

The authority, he noted, has also initiated moves to support private investors to venture into processing cashew fruit.

Statistics show that last year about 250,000 metric tonnes of cashew fruit got rotten on the farms. Cashew fruit can be processed into jam, ethanol and juice, among others.

“Henceforth the cashew industry will be catered for properly by strategic interventions, not by default,” he added.

The revival of cashew processing will be the carry-through of an international protocol Ghana has signed. He explained that the protocol requires about 50% processing of cashew produced in the ECOWAS sub-Region by 2030. The Deputy GEPA boss urged exporters to show interest in the cause of processing raw nuts locally.

Other interventions targetted at development of the cashew industry include the proposed cashew export levy. Government is in the process of slapping an export levy on raw cashew nuts (RCN).

The levy is expected to discourage excessive exportation of RCN and promote local processing of the commodity. It will generate revenue into the coffers of the yet to be established Cashew Development Fund, planned to give a financial backbone to cashew development initiatives.

A mass spraying and distribution of grafted seedlings programme has also commenced. The programme covers improvement of existing cashew farms through farm clearing, spraying and pruning to set a roadmap for farms’ expansion, and establishment of new ones to boost production level.

The exercise targets about 70,000 acres every year; it is expected to increase cashew production by 30%.

Current production is pegged at 70,000mt. The commodity is one of the fast-growing cash crops in the country.

It is presently Ghana’s leading agricultural non-traditional export (NTE), fetching about US$197million in 2016, representing 53% of the total US$371million earnings from the agricultural NTE sub-sector.