Business News of 2014-02-25

Cashew farmers call for regulatory price body

Cashew has become one of the leading cash crops in the country in recent years. It is normally grown in the tropical countries because the cashew tree is said to be very frost sensitive.

Ghana, by its location, falls within the tropic zone, and with its vast savannah area, it is a safe ground for the cultivation of cashew. It is, therefore, not surprising that tonnes of cashew nuts are almost always carted out of the country every year. The numerous uses of cashew (which is widely cultivated purposely for its nuts) are well known.

Agriculture is said to be Ghana’s most important economic sector, employing more than half the population on formal and informal bases and accounting for almost half of GDP and export earnings.

One crop which now needs government attention for maximum production is the cashew. Over the years, cashew production in the country has been left in the hands of the private sector. This has led to price disparity to the disadvantage of farmers and has subsequently affected the production of the crop.

The season for the cashew industry or business in the country has begun with its accompanying problems, especially pricing.

Cashew farmers from past years have been appealing to the government to set up a body to regulate the pricing of cashew in the country, like other cash crops in the country. But this plea of the cashew farmers is yet to attract government attention.

At the moment, it is the buying agencies-both local and international-that always determine prices of the commodity at the beginning of the season. This they normally do in their favour to the detriment of the farmers. In most cases, the price which is set by these agencies does not consider the world market price or its quantity, but only the profit they will make.

For the past three or more years the price of cashew in the country and the Jaman North District in particular has been falling to as low as GH¢40 or GH¢0.40 per kilogramme. For instance, in the 2013 cashew season, the price per kilo of cashew nut commenced at GH¢1.20, rose to about GH¢1.50 and dropped to GH¢1.00 before it finally came as low as GH¢0.40. All these price changes were influenced by the purchasing agents when the international buyers might have budgeted for GH¢1.50 or more per kilo. The purchasing agents have also made it impossible for the farmers to have any contact with these international buyers and exporters.

Considering the rising prices of farm implements and inputs like weedicides, pesticides and labour, etc., as well as the rise in inflation in the country, cashew prices should have rather gone up or should have been maintained at an appreciable level than the current situation.

This phenomenon is discouraging cashew farmers from putting in efforts to cultivate the crop, considering what they have put in vis-a-vis the price being offered by the buying agencies.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), as a lead agency and focal point of the Government of Ghana responsible for developing and executing policies and strategies for the agriculture sector, must step up its efforts. With its nicely carved vision and mission statements, it is about time we saw these statements in practical terms and not mere rhetorics.

While it cannot be said that the ministry is not doing anything, we can equally not lose sight of the fact that the ministry needs more action as there is vast room for improvement. It is long overdue for the country to benefit from the cashew potential as an increase in production will bring about more employment while the exports will also bring about additional foreign exchange.”

It is against this backdrop that cashew farmers have been calling for government intervention over the years for improved cashew production and regulated pricing for the benefit of the country and the farmers for that matter.

It is, therefore, the wish of farmers that the government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) and other stakeholders like African Cashew Alliance (ACA), would do something to alleviate the cashew farmers’ plight.

Source: graphic.com.gh
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