Cashew processors face bleak future

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombilla
Cashew has big demand all over the world

About 10 out of the 13 cashew processing companies in the country have collapsed or halted operations over the past five years.

The companies that are still in business are also struggling to cope with various challenges in the industry, which led to the collapse of their counterparts.

The challenges ranged from lack of raw materials to rising costs of production, which have, over the years, combined to take the shine off an otherwise profitable business.

Although the cashew industry has been a major revenue contributor to non-traditional export (NTE) earnings, accounting for 5.35 per cent (GH¢134.61 million) of last year’s earnings, a lobbyist for the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana, Dr Gideon Kofi Agbley, said it had virtually been left to fend for itself.

From the availability of cashew nuts to access to credit and inputs for farmers, Dr Agbley said at the national cashew development advocacy forum in Accra that appeals for government-sponsored interventions to help revive the industry were yet to be heeded to, thereby making it difficult for companies and farmers to operate profitably.

“What most of the farmers did was that they remained with the old methods of farming because of lack of resources to buy inputs. The processing companies are also collapsing. In fact, so far, only three out of the 13 companies are still operating and that is not good for us,” he said at the event.

The event, which was organised by the association in conjunction with the African Cashew Alliance, was to help collate the views of stakeholders and experts into a single document that can be used for advocacy purposes.

It was funded by the Business Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC) fund, a non-governmental organisation committed to private sector development.

Consequences on revenues

The collapse of the cashew processors has translated into a drop in the amount of revenues the country gets from the export of cashew nuts and its derivatives on annual basis.

Official figures show that earnings from cashew exports reduced by 17.5 per cent in 2014, after falling from US$163.1 million in 2013 to US$134.61 million last year.

Although the development is mainly due to a fall in overall exports, Dr Agbley said it had been compounded by the volumes of amounts of processed cashew exports resulting from the collapse of the companies.

As a result, he said the country needed to implement measures that will help boost the operations of processing companies while cutting down on the export volumes of raw nuts.

He suggested that stakeholders in Ghana continued to dialogue with neigbouring Cote d’Ivoire to rescind its ban on cashew sales to local buyers through its borders.

That, he said will help make the nuts available to the processing companies to feed their industries.

Cashew production rose to 70,000 tons in July, this year, from 7,000 tons in 2003.

Out of the total annual output, more than half is exported in its raw state, leaving the rest for the local processing industry. — GB