Lack of improved seedlings threatens cashew production

The country’s quest to significantly increase cashew production in the years ahead could be hampered by insufficient supply of critical inputs like grafted seedlings to farmers, B&FT has gathered.

As part of implementing the 10-year Cashew Development Plan (2017-2027), the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) in collaboration with the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana (CIAG), is expected to produce over two million grafted cashew seedlings annually for onward distribution to farmers in all cashew-growing communities across the country to boost production of the crop.

But the only scion bank at the Wenchi Agricultural Research Station is unable to produce enough for grafting, leaving private nursery farmers frustrated.

While the private cashew grafted-seedling developers claim managers of the research station have been restricting them from cutting the required scions for the seedling grafting, officials at the station say they are simply overwhelmed by the situation.

The plan is for the country to increase production of raw cashew nuts from 70,000 metric tonnes to 300,000mt; increase processing capacity from 65,000mt to 2000,000mt; as well as promote marketing of cashew by-products, among other things.

To this end, GEPA has given GH¢1.6million to CIAG for development of the improved cashew seedlings and the pilot phase of a mass spraying exercise for some 30,000 hectares of cashew plantation.

The CIAG, in turn, contracted the private cashew nursery operators to assist in the development of grafted seedlings.

However, checks by the B&FT have revealed that the private cashew nursery operators are challenged in accessing an important input – ‘scions’ – needed in the grafting process. The scion is a young shoot or twig of the plant cut for grafting or rooting.

Prince Obeng Frimpong, a Wenchi-based private cashew nursery operator, told the B&FT: “I have been given a target to produce 6,000 grafted seedlings, but my inability to access scions on time at the Research Station puts me in a tight corner to achieve the target. Officers there have been frustrating me with bureaucratic delays.”

Another private cashew nursery operator, Edith Aseiduaa said: “After undue delays by authorities at the station, they will only allow you harvest just a handful of the scions. We are helpless now; our investments into the project are going down the drain. We want the powers that be to swiftly intervene”.

Responding to concerns of the cashew grafters, Robert Arthur-Manager at the Wenchi Agric Research Station, said the seedling developers did not consult the research station before they started nursing – thinking that there is an abundance of scions to harvest for the grafting.

“Ideally, they should factor our considerations into their planning, especially with the needed quantities, so that we will know how best to assist them with the scions.”

He indicated that the station is ‘overwhelmed’ by increasing demand for scions, and it has become prudent to regulate their harvesting at the bank.

Besides feeding the private nursery operators, the station is also expected to support the development of a minimum 100,000 seedlings for each of 37 districts under a joint cashew project by the District Centre for Agriculture, Commerce and Technology (DCACT) and the Planting for Exports and Rural Development (PERD) programme, he added.

Mr. Arthur appealed for the construction of an irrigation system at the Wenchi Agric Research Station to ensure continuous production of the required scions to boost cashew production.

“Per our current situation, we can only assist in producing between 1-1.2 million seedlings per year,” he said.