The low international demand for Ghana’s shea-nut in raw state has posed a risk of wiping out the fortunes of the cash crop in terms of foreign exchange to the nation and livelihood sustenance for farmers engaged in picking the nut.

Ghana exports about 45,000 metric tonnes of raw shea-nut annually, but not even a tonne was exported in the last two years due to a shift in demand on the international market from raw to processed shea-nut.

A baseline data analysis report released by the Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC) last week in Accra contained this information with confirmation that a total of 8,000 metric tonnes of raw shea-nuts purchased in the 2007/2008 crop season for export by the Produce Buying Company still lies at the warehouse in Tema without any prospects for disposal.

Coordinator of GTLC, Ibrahim Akalbila, noted on presenting the findings of the report that the development on the international market does not augur well for the traditional value addition chain of the crop.

He however said all was not lost, because feasible options are to process the nuts before exports and to deepen the domestic industry through increased consumption of the nut shea nut when processed. The price fluctuates depending on market conditions. Unlike Cocoa, which is traded on the futures market at the international level and guarantees prices for cocoa farmers, the market of shea nut is not regulated in any way.

Consequently, Mr. Akalbila observed that the development of the domestic industry can play a leading role in guaranteeing prices for farmers and providing competition for international demand.

Shea’s usefulness cuts across diverse industries worldwide, including the detergents, catering and pharmaceuticals industries. The major challenge is for COCOBOD – the industry regulator – to dedicate adequate attention to promoting the interest of shea-nut – for instance, as it does in promoting cocoa.

The nut is grown wild in the three Northern regions of the country. It takes between 25 and 30 years for the trees to begin bearing fruit, but the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has come up with varieties that can begin fruiting between six and ten years.

Launching the report, the Country Manger of Oxfam BV, Justine Morgan, called on government to support the women, who walk long distances to pick the fruit from the wild, with tools, equipment and protective attire.

While Produce Buying Company (PBC) has indicated interest in processing the nuts, he urged government to ensure that PBC and other private enterprises that will begin processing shea nut include the women in their plans.

Source: Business & Financial Times

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