Mr. Winfred Osei Owusu, president of Cashew Industry Association of Ghana, has called for a higher level of commitment from policy makers towards the development of the cashew sector.
According to him although the sector is a burgeoning industry that contributes to foreign exchange earnings and stems the tide to rural to urban migration through local level employment and transformation, it lacked the needed recognition by government.
Mr. Ose Owusu was addressing participants at the opening of the first ever national cashew dialogue on the theme: ‘Revitalising the cashew sector: An opportunity neglected by the nation’, in Accra.
The dialogue, which is being organised by the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana (CIAG), is part of a six-month advocacy programme mainly sponsored by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund, and aims at impressing upon policy makers, especially parliamentarians to intensify lobbying on the challenging issues in the cashew sector for improved performance and recognition.
It brought together about 100 stakeholders within the cashew growing industry, to have discussions with key government organisations, including the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Food and Agriculture, as well as the Ghana Export Promotion Authority.
He said apart from the absence of an administrative body, legally mandated to steer the affairs in the cashew value chain, there were challenges with cashew production capacity and accessibility to credit facilities to farmers, leading to a shortfall in the level of performance of the crop.
Mr. Owusu said in spite of its enormous potential to generate wealth and employment for Ghanaians and foreign exchange for the nation, the current state of the cashew market shows that Ghanaians were not in control, as foreigners with the advantage of their home government subsidies were crowding out local traders and even processors.
He said the situation had created chaos in the cashew market-place, where local and foreign, small and large traders were all operating in a playing field that had no regulations as found in more structured markets such as in Cote d’Ivoire.
Mr. Osei Owusu therefore, advised government and policy makers to learn from the success of the cocoa sector structure and organisation, for the realisation of the expected expansion, recognition and success of the cashew sector.
Dr Gideon Kofi Agbley, Acting Executive Secretary, CIAG, said the sector contributes between 400 and 500 million dollars revenue to help in the country’s current economic crisis, and with the potential prospect of cashew production locally, it was anticipated that the crop would increase from its current 50,000 to 200,000 metric tonnes annually with a processing capacity of about 90 per cent.
The sector currently has 14 processing factories in the country with a processing capacity of 60,000 MT while the country produces 50,000 MT of raw nuts.
He explained that with the support of BUSAC and African Cashew Alliance, the association has begun series of activities as part of its advocacy campaign, hoping to bring the challenges within the sector before duty bearers and to chart a way forward.
Mr. Kwaku Aidoo, President of the Ghana Cooperative Farmers Association, called for the removal of the Export Premium in the sector, which he said is a disincentive and frustration to cashew farmers and the market because of its monopoly.—GNA