Cashew: Burgeoning industry in Bono with teething challenges
Cashew, which is one of the tree crops being promoted under the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) programme, is largely produced in the Bono Region.
It is a well-known fact that the region is one of the highest producers of the commodity in the country, as it is being produced in commercial quantities.
The crop was introduced into Ghana about 35 years ago, with the Bono Region, which has a total land size of 11,107 square kilometres, representing five per cent of Ghana's territorial land, becoming the leading producer of the commodity.
Statistics available from the Bono Regional Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) indicate that the region produced more than 48 per cent of the total annual production of 170,000 metric tonnes (MT) of raw cashew nuts in 2021.
Following the introduction of the PERD, the region has projected to increase its current production to 130,000 MT per year in the next four years.
The region, with 12 administrative municipal and district areas, has about seven of its districts focusing more on the cultivation of the commodity.
Noted to be leading producers of cashew in the region are the Jaman North District, Jaman South Municipality, Tain District and Banda District.
Others are the Wenchi Municipality, Berekum Municipality, Berekum West District and the Sunyani West Municipality.
Although the rest of the districts, namely; Sunyani Municipality, Dormaa Municipality, Dormaa West District and Dormaa East District also produce the commodity, they are not into full-scale production.
During this year’s peak season, the commodity is in abundance in the major producing districts, particularly the Jaman South Municipality and Jaman North District.
When the Daily Graphic visited Sampa and Drobo in the Jaman North District and Jaman South Municipality, respectively, several long trucks were loading and transporting several bags of the raw cashew nuts from the various communities.
It is common to see raw cashew nuts being dried at every available open space, including the shoulders of roads in every community in the Jaman North District and Jaman South Municipality.
The Bono Regional Director of Agriculture, Denis Abugri Amenga, told the Daily Graphic that since the commencement of PERD in 2018, more than 46,000 hectares of new cashew plantations had been established in the region.
Mr Amenga said the Wenchi, Tain, Berekum and Jaman enclaves were the leading producing areas, giving the region the upper hand over other regions.
He said under the programme, thousands of farmers in the region were given free improved cashew seedlings and supported by the Agricultural Extension Officers (AEO) to adopt best agricultural practices in order to improve yield.
Mr Amenga said farmers had also allowed their farms to be pruned, which was one of the major ways of increasing production.
However, he lamented that close to 88,000 MT of the cashew apple, which could be processed into juice and several other recipes went to waste.
Mr Amenga, therefore, called on municipal and district assemblies (MDAs) and private investors to invest in the processing of the cashew fruits to juice.
He said adding value to the raw cashew nuts and apple (fruit) through processing would help create more jobs, increase earnings and reduce poverty to positively impact on the economic and social well-being of the country.
Over the years, cashew farmers and dealers in the region have continued to lament low producer prices and some other marketing challenges.
In 2019, some of the farmers suspended the sale of raw cashew nuts because of the drastic reduction in the producer price of the commodity.
Some frustrated farmers also halted picking raw cashew nuts from their farms because the cost involved in processing a bag of nuts was more than the price of a bag of nuts.
Meanwhile, some of the farmers, who have no facilities to store the nuts or need money for various reasons, continue to sell it at low prices.
This year, the government has pegged the minimum price of the commodity at GH¢8.50 per kilogramme.
However, the announcement by the government was received with mixed reactions from the cashew farmers and dealers in the region.
While a section of them have expressed their joy about the price and commended the government for the initiative, another section of the farmers has argued that the amount was not adequate and could have been pushed to GH¢10 per kilogramme.
A 42-year-old farmer at Sampa, Victor Ankamah, said the government's decision to peg the price of cashew showed its commitment to farmers.
He said it had helped to stop buyers from cheating farmers, explaining that the amount was in the interest of industry players.
However, a 33-year-old farmer, Salia Ibrahim, told the Daily Graphic that he was not satisfied because the cost involved in picking the raw cashew nuts was higher than what he got from the sale of the commodity.
He explained that he had to either share the picked raw nuts with the pickers by dividing it into three, where he took two out of the three or paid GH¢50 to each person a day.
Mr Ibrahim said considering the high cost of chemicals and other farming expenses he incurred in the management of his farm, the producer price per kilogramme was woefully inadequate.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to consider increasing the price of the commodity to make the industry lucrative.
Mr Ibrahim explained that though the government had pegged the price of the cashew nut, buyers in the area were still cheating farmers, saying, “Some buyers continue to cheat us by giving less than the GH¢8.50.”
The Jaman North District Chief Executive (DCE), Solomon Owusu, who also confirmed the cheating issue to the Daily Graphic, said it had come to the notice of the assembly that some buyers in the area were cheating the farmers
He said in order to prevent buyers from cheating farmers, the assembly had inaugurated a taskforce to go into the communities to check activities of the buyers, in order to ensure that farmers were not cheated.
Mr Owusu said the taskforce was made up of officers from the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), Ghana Police Service (GPS) and Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Information Service Department (ISD).
He said it was illegal for buyers to cheat farmers or abuse the price set up by the Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA), explaining that cashew production was the backbone of the assembly and would not allow the buyers to cheat farmers.
Mr Owusu said cashew was a major source of the assembly’s revenue generation, saying, “The assembly revenue always increases drastically, during the cashew season.”
He said the government had also demonstrated its commitment to the cashew industry and mentioned the establishment of the TCDA, which regulated activities of tree crops, including the cashew.
He said the establishment of the authority had helped to enhance the cashew sector in the area and the country as a whole.
Poor roads, smuggling
Mr Owusu, however, expressed concern about the deplorable nature of roads in the area, explaining that the poor state of the roads impeded cashew business and other socio-economic activities.
He said the assembly had started reshaping some feeder roads in the area to facilitate transportation of food and cash crops, particularly cashew from farmgates to the various storage facilities.
Mr Owusu said since the district shared its border with La Cote d'Ivoire, the assembly had beefed up security in the area to prevent smuggling of cashew nuts in or out of the district.
"Unfortunately, there are several unapproved routes which some of these smugglers may be using, but we have intensified security to check smuggling at the border," Mr Owusu said.
Responding to the cheating issue, a Cashew Buyer, Isaac Kofi Asamoah, explained that buyers sometimes purchased the commodity below the GH¢8.50 because of the low quality of the nuts.
He explained that the quality of some nuts from the farmers were compromised, stressing that some farmers sometimes failed to dry their nuts properly before selling.
Mr Asamoah said when there was some amount of moisture in the nuts then buyers had to purchase it below the price in order not to incur losses after drying them properly.
He called on farmers to ensure that their nuts were well-dried to avoid controversies.