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  • Cashew: A Potential Foreign Exchange Earner for Ghana

    Nov 20th, 2017

    Since independence Cocoa has been, and continues to be, the major foreign exchange earner for Ghana. Interest in Cocoa cultivation among Ghanaian farmers grew. Cocoa cultivation spread to almost every region in Ghana. It came as no surprise when Ghana became the leading producer of cocoa in the world. The Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) and Produce Buying Agency (PBA) were established. The latter has purchasing clerks in almost all the towns and villages where cocoa is produced. The former gathered all the cocoa beans in sacks and prepared them for export. In recent years, interest in the cultivation of cocoa waned as galamsay destroyed many farms. Of late there has been a shift towards cashew cultivation.

    Cashew cultivation has spread to many towns and villages in the Brong Ahafo Region. Cashew nuts cultivation is expanding very rapidly in Ghana mostly in the Brong Ahafo Region. This has brought more income and employment to the farmers and people living in these areas. As interest in cashew nut farming grew among the people in the Brong Ahafo Region, potential problems arose including conflict over land and threat to food security as farmers leave food farming and enter into cashew production. The main reason behind this move is that the Chief Business Officer of Africa Cashew Alliance (ACA), Mr Snil Dahiya, advised Ghanaians to strengthen the cashew industry to replace cocoa, as the effects of climate change advance and once it starts it can hardly be stopped. Mr Dahiya issued a red alert to governments who relied on cocoa production as it would not thrive in increased temperatures.

    Cashew cultivation has been a major foreign exchange earner for many countries in East Africa. We are all witnesses to how obsessed the Kenyans and the Tanzanians are in the cashew industry and there is no food shop in Europe where cashew nuts cannot be found on the shelves. Over the past several decades African production of cashew has grown and expanded. Typical of Africa, these East African countries have no processing plants. 90% of the nuts are sent to India, Brazil and Vietnam for processing. Currently Africa produces 55% of the world's crop of cashew with the rest produced by Brazil, India, Vietnam, among others.

    If Ghana approaches the cultivation of cashew with zeal and aggression, Africa will lead in the cashew industry for a long time. Although data on production numbers in Ghana are conflicting, it is currently below 60,000 tonnes per annum. However, with the increase in demand for cashew, several people around Jaman, Japekrom and their environs have shifted their farming interest to cashew cultivation. What is crucial now is the difficulty for the youth and the marginalized groups to secure or have access to land. Access to credit, affordable inputs, the ability to hire labour, information about agricultural practices and quality education are very important and crucial keys to cashew cultivation leading to high yields

    There are several reasons why cashew nuts are so popular and a major foreign exchange earner for many countries. Cashew nuts when eaten regularly have the following benefits: It prevents different types of cancer because there are certain properties in cashew that fight against tumour cells by stopping them from dividing further. Cashew nuts are also known to strengthen the body’s immune system and its ability to fight blood diseases.

    The cashew farmers in the Brong Ahafo Region are happy because they have a ready market for their crop. Foreign merchants have swarmed the cashew producing areas to buy the nuts directly from farmers. They have created offices and warehouses ready for business. The farmers were not happy about the price per kilo for the nuts until a final GHc5.00 per kilo was agreed upon. Meanwhile the buyers sell them at 6.50euros per kilo when they export them to Europe. The former government of the NDC, seeing the foreign exchange potential of the nuts, decided that the government could assume total control of the purchases. Interestingly, they suggested a producer price of GHc3:00 per kilo – far lower than the amount offered by the foreign merchants. Heaven broke loose. The farmers revolted. The government retreated and never returned to that subject again.

    The ministry of Food and Agriculture must start working on how to take control of the cashew industry in Ghana. Ghana is doing well both politically and economically and therefore the need to boost the economy by bringing cashew production at par with cocoa. Presently the production of cashew has risen from 60,000 metric tonnes to 90,000 metric tons, while the foreign buyers make close to $244m per annum! There is the need for the government of Ghana to capitalize on its competitive edge in the cashew trade as well as the hot demand for the commodity on the international market. There is already a gap of two million metric tonnes on the international market. Ghana must take advantage of this huge opportunity since we have the potential to do so. Currently cashew is doing far better than cocoa on the international market. In the last 5-6 years the price of cashew has risen by 700% and it keeps on rising.

    As a first step the government must create Cashew Marketing Board and Produce Buying Agencies which will gradually replace the foreign merchants. The government must provide seedlings, sacks and more incentives for any Ghanaian who wants to go into cashew farming. The price offered per kilo of cashew must be doubled or even tripled. There is really a bright future for cashew trade in Ghana