Saving The Cashew Industry

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For the umpteenth time, cashew exporters have sounded the alarm that all is not well with their industry. From the farm gate to the ports, a litany of complaints have dogged the industry and if not resolved will leave our farmers and investors wringing their hands in anguish.
Greed has invaded the industry as traditional Indian and Vietnamese exporters are sounding the alarm bells that they are being short-changed since they only get the rotten nut to buy.
It has been complaints galore from all stakeholders. Finance and Trade Ministries, Ghana Export Promotions Council, GEPC and the Cashew Nut Exporters Association of Ghana whose main grouse is that the sector has become an all comers affair – there are no regulations or regulators as the mainly foreign traders do so directly from the farm gate without any quality test.
Cashew, just like cocoa, must go through a process before export. But the farmers, hamstrung by cash, prefer to dispose of the farmers is that the sector is in such an unregulated state that foreigners with deep pockets now determine the cost of the nut, choking local buyers out of the market.
The solution must be the provision of proper warehousing facilities to handle the 90,000 metric tonnes it produced this year. The unregulated nature of the industry has resulted in a decline in employment opportunities for Ghanaians: from 6000 to 3000 as the foreigners import labour under the guise of tourists to perform such jobs as tallying, cutting, quality testing and bookkeeping.
Judging from the lamentations of the local buyers, there is the need for the state to intervene and regulate the sector as it has done for cocoa.
Interestingly, the Ivorian’s had a premonition and years ago put in measures to regulate the sector and encourages farmers. The result: Cote D’Ivoire is now the world’s leading producer of cashew with 702,510 tonnes from last year while Ghana is producing just 10 percent of that figure even though we share the same climatic conditions.
Earlier meetings with the Trade Ministry and GEPC officials only resulted in farmers being told not to sell directly to exporters. That directive in March 2017 was flatly rejected by farmers who said they have to pay back the loans they took from financial institutions. They are still waiting on government for the new directive on the way forward.
What however is their biggest grudge is the presence of foreigners on the farm gates negotiation prices, an activity the local buyers association wants proscribed forthwith while government restricts the activities of the foreigners to the ports.
This is one practice Ghanaian buyers swore cannot happen in Cote D’Ivoire as the regulations that have left the business in the hands of the citizens has spurred them on to produce more.
There is no need for Ghana to re-invent the wheel; officials of the Trade Ministry and the Export Council must dialogue with our own, accede to their wants and needs believing that when properly done could place the market in the hands of Ghanaians.
We believe a trial will convince us.