A cashew expert with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), Jim Fitzpatrick, has called on local cashew stakeholders to focus on improving food safety and quality in order to attract international consumers. 

According to him, in order to keep the African cashew sector competitive, stakeholders should establish credibility and reliability on the global market by ensuring food safety and quality.

Speaking at a virtual forum organised by the ACA Wednesday, Jim who is also a Market Information Systems (MIS) expert, explained that the increase in cashew consumption, particularly in Europe has resulted in a corresponding increase in demand of the product.

While he was optimistic of Africa taking advantage of this, he believed it was necessary for local processors to prioritise and not compromise on food safety measures.

He explained that although the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the cashew sector is still not certain, the sector in Africa is currently in a good position to grow considering the generally less severe nature of the pandemic in the continent.

A cashew value chain expert at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Anim Jerry, believes issues of food safety requires collective responsibility from all actors along the cashew value chain, and lies on the shoulders of  some public institutions to ensure that food safety protocols are adhered to.

“Many institutions interplay when it comes to food safety issues in cashew. At the production level, the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate of MOFA is in charge of food safety. However, the Ghana Standards Authority is in charge of post- harvest food safety issues,” he said.  

He explained that several parameters, including moisture content, kernel output ratio and nut count, are used in determining the quality of raw cashew nuts.

He urged farmers to follow all harvesting and post- harvesting procedures to ensure quality of their nuts and also emphasized the need for them to know the quality level of their nuts to get the right prices.

Managing Director of the ACA, Ernest Mintah, advised traders on the need to ensure that the nuts they buy, and export are of high quality and good for export and processing.

“Sometimes because of the competitive nature of the raw cashew nuts market, some buyers are in a rush to buy. They do not even allow farmers to properly dry the nuts. This affects the quality of the nuts,” he added.

He however stressed that a lot depends on processors when it comes to food safety who, he believes, cannot afford to compromise.

“Food safety is very crucial at every stage of cashew processing. Cashew processing is very delicate and requires strict adherence to food safety protocols,” he said.

According to Branch Manager for Cashew at Olam Ghana, Yussif Amankwa, disregard for food safety measures and quality on the part of some buyers and farmers is having a huge impact on Ghana’s reputation at the global market, explaining that this is not only affecting exporters but also the State in terms of revenue generation.

“Ghana used to command premium in the international market because of the quality of cashew nuts that were exported. But today, these bad practises by some buyers and farmers are bringing us down. People now prefer nuts from Cote d’ Ivoire to those from Ghana”, he said.

He was positive that the newly established Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA) will coordinate with the Cashew Council Ghana (CCG) in ensuring food safety and quality.

“Education is very key. Farmers for instance need to be educated to know  that when their cashew nuts are well dried, it improves quality and they get premium prices. The TCDA and CCG needs to coordinate in educating stakeholders in this regard”, he added.