The Government has been urged to constitute a board to regulate the marketing, pricing, and export of cashew nuts, as has been done for cocoa, to enable cashew farmers to reap the maximum benefits from their labour.
Unlike cocoa, the cashew sector in Ghana is currently without an independent governmental body to set standards and enforce them.
Marketing of the nuts is unregulated, with its resultant price fluctuations, forcing farmers to be at the mercy of buyers, who determine what and when to pay for a 100-kilogramme bag of cashew nuts.
About 700 or 800 Ghana cedis is paid for a 100-killogramme jute sack of the nuts, depending on the market volatilities, and farmers had no choice but to sell at whatever rate to prevent the nuts from going to waste.
Mr Moses Afriyie, a 47-year-old cashew farmer at Apesika in the Kintampo South District of the Bono East Region, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said a board was long overdue to ensure price stabilisation, vibrancy of the sector, and flexibility of farmers to budget, plan, and improve on their business, which was their main source of income.
He said cashew farming was becoming one of the important agricultural sectors in Ghana, however, its capital intensiveness, in terms of management and maintenance, necessitated the regulation and streamlining of activities to protect the investment made.
Even though there had been several actor associations like the Ghana Cashew Traders and Exporters Association, the sector still lacked proper organisation, pricing regimes, and adequate supply chain linkages.
“We want to see some vibrancy in the sector. As it stands now, there’s no board, which speaks for cashew. The Government is adamant on the sector, as if to say cashew cannot fetch much foreign exchange like cocoa to facilitate economic growth,” he said.
Mr Afriyie said the farmers wanted the Government to intervene and buy the nuts at the minimum price to save them in case of eventualities.
“I have started harvesting and I have to send the nuts to those outlets and container shops, who are the main buyers. Apart from these there’s nowhere to send them. So whatever price they offer I must accept and dispose of them, otherwise they become waste material.’’
“Cashew now is very easy to process and valuable, fetching more than cocoa. But buyers use middlemen, who exploit the farmers. We are not getting anything, but we love to farm because we create employment for ourselves and the youth and support community growth.”
The African Cashew Alliance estimates that more than 800,000 people are directly or indirectly employed across the cashew supply value chain, including farmers, factory workers, buyers and exporters of the commodity in Ghana.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, data published by Our World in Data, indicates that Ghana produced around 82,420 tonnes of raw cashew nuts in 2020. Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana’s Western neighbour, produced 848,700 tonnes in 2020, the highest in the world.
Mr Afriyie, owner of a 25-acre cashew plantation, and a teacher of 23 years and counting, employs about 10 workers on average, who prune the trees, weed the farm and harvest when the fruits mature.
Students on vacation also benefit as they are temporarily employed to pick the raw cashew nuts and get paid on daily basis, which they use to buy school materials and for their general upkeep.
He mentioned climate change as another major challenge inhibiting the progress of farmers, saying water bodies are drying up, with weather variations and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
“These have severely affected our business, the rains started late this year inhibiting the strength of the flowers to form fruits, most of which fell off due to the constant sunshine. We expected the rains in the first week of February, but they came in early March.”
He called for research into finding a suitable technology to facilitate the removal of the nuts from the cashew fruits, which would no doubt improve their work.
“The fruit could also be processed for juice as it contains sweet liquid with high water content. Currently, we just discard the fruits after removing the nuts, which could be used for other economic purposes.’’
The challenges in the sector, notwithstanding, Mr Afriyie said he would maintain his farm because he loved farming cashew, and with the support of government, a better success story could be told.
“I love farming cashew and its equally a good cash crop. It’s like gold in this contemporary world. I may consider farming cocoa but on a different land, not to replace it with my cashew, because variety is the spice of life.”