A Market Information Systems (SMI) expert with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), Jim Fitzpatrick, has called on African governments to prioritise developing a cashew sector that adds value to itself.

Africa’s Cashew sector, according to him, has shown great resilience and potentials over the years and requires special attention from governments to reap its full potentials, by increasing local processing.

Speaking at a forum organised by the ACA to access the impact of Covid 19 on the cashew sector, he explained that even though the pandemic did not have huge impacts on the sector, it took a toll on some stakeholders especially farmers and processors, hence there are great lessons to be learnt. 

He emphasized that Covid-19 is not having a severe impact on the cashew sector partly because the pandemic is generally less severe in cashew producing countries in Africa, but more importantly because Vietnam was also lightly affected.

He explained that Vietnam, where over 80% of Ghana’s raw cashews are imported, increased imports of raw cashew nuts (RCN) by a record 15%, most of which were from Africa.

This, he explained, made it possible for African Countries to continue to export RCN hence farmers could also sell, though at reduced prices.

He believed governments need to intensify their efforts to increasing local cashew processing to reduce the overdependence on Vietnam and other cashew export destinations.    

“While it is not in my place to tell African governments what to do, it is necessary for governments to prioritise developing a sector that adds value to itself. If Vietnam had been hugely affected [by the pandemic], the impact on Africa’s cashew sector would have been disastrous,” he said at the virtual forum.

He believed it was necessary for governments to formulate and implement policies that encourage local processing of the crop.

“It is important for governments to introduce policy measures that provide positive incentives for value addition,” he added.

Responding to suggestions for governments to ban the exports of RCN to encourage local processing, Jim thought otherwise explaining that an outright “ban on export only damages farmers” who would not be able to sell at competitive prices.

In regulating the cashew sector, he believed it was necessary for governments to recognise the strength of the local sector so as to take a competitive advantage over other cashew producing countries.

Speaking at the side-line of the forum, Managing Director of the ACA, Ernest Mintah, said a closer look at the cashew industry in Africa shows that African governments are beginning to appreciate the huge economic potentials of the crop and are putting in place the necessary structures to regulate the sector.

In the case of Ghana, he believed the establishment of the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA) and the Cashew Council Ghana (CCG) is a milestone in the country’s quest to develop the sector.

He was optimistic that these bodies will get the best out of the sector, especially by implementing measures that will endure to the benefit of all stakeholders.

The CCG, he believes will advocate for appropriate policies to be formulated and implemented.

“What is even more gratifying is that these bodies are private sector-led and will perform their functions with high level of independence,” he said.

The records of the ACA shows that over 2.5 million African farmers currently grow 57% of the world’s cashews producing in excess of 2.1 million tons of RCN annually. Local processing in Africa remains low at just 10%.  Ghana produces an estimated 110, 000 metric tons of RCN, 15% of which are locally processed.