The Ministry of Food and Agriculture says the Covid-19 pandemic has positively impacted Ghana’s cashew processing sector.
MOFA says seven local cashew processing companies that had collapsed as a result of absence of raw cashew nuts (majority of which is usually exported), are now back on stream operating because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Ghana has 14 processing companies with total installed capacity of about 65,000 metric tonnes. However, due to competition for raw cashew nuts (RCNs) with traders who source RCNs for export, the local processing companies usually find it difficult to compete for RCNs,” Lois Karikari who is director of crops at the Ashanti Regional Department of Agriculture explained.
“This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MOFA encouraged and supported the indigenous cashew processors to take advantage of the limited number of traders to stockpile RCNs for local processing. Due to this arrangement, seven local processing companies which were otherwise closed down due to stiff competition for RCN started operation,” she added.
She was speaking at a workshop on the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to build the capacity of journalists on the cashew sector.
The workshop was organised by the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) and the Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) of the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), as part of a cashew sector visibility project.
Madam Karikari disclosed this year, the market price of raw cashew nut (RCN) fell beyond expectation due to the covid-19 pandemic.
The price fall was occasioned by travel restrictions which could not permit a lot of the RCN traders who are mostly expatriates to participate in the market.
She said the government through MOFA with supports from GIZ/ComCashew stepped in and linked farmers who had RCNs to the processing factories in the country.
The cashew sub-sector is estimated to generate over 400,000 permanent and seasonal employment along the cashew value chain.
In 2019, about 120,000 metric tonnes of raw cashew nuts valued at $378 million were exported for processing. Madam Karikari says MOFA together with GIZ/ComCashew is supplying 5 million cashew grafts to farmers this year under the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) program.
She disclosed MOFA is training farmers and other value chain actors on cashew apple processing to boost their returns from the crop.
“This will enable our farmers to get the maximum benefits from the cashew fruits rather than the current situation where they only benefit from the RCN which is only 10% of the total weight of the cashew fruit, wasting the 90%,” she said.
Clement Anane, General Secretary of the Ghana National Cashew Farmers Association expressed concern about the low prices at which cashew processors and exporters buy cashew from farmers which he says is sometimes inadequate to compensate them for time, resources and energy spent on production. He also expressed concern about difficulty in accessing quality inputs as another challenge militating against growth of the sector.
Charles Kumah, Chief Executive Officer of Nimdee Hyerem Cashew Processing Company and member of the Association of Cashew Processors Ghana called for increased support from government for cashew processing in the country.
Ashanti Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture Rev. John Manu assured the sector players their concerns will be brought to the attention of the Minister of Food and Agriculture, so he helps address them.
Ben Opoku Aryeh, Research Officer at Parliamentary News Africa (PN Africa) told the workshop parliament in 2019 passed the Tree Crop Development Act to allow for the establishment of the Tree Crop Development Authority to help address the concerns the farmers are raising.
President of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) Richmond Frimpong called for increased media attention on the cashew and other agricultural sectors to help enhance development.
University Relations Officer at KNUST Dr. Daniel Berkoe said the institution is excited to host intellectual discussions on issues of agriculture since a large number of its students come from homes where agriculture is the main source of employment. He urged the media to prioritise agricultural focused stories to help accelerate development of the sector.