The GNPA Limited, formerly Ghana National Procurement Agency (GNPA), has requested regulatory powers to enable it to unlock the potentials in the cashew industry. According to the company, the cashew business can bring in more than US$300 million in export revenues annually.
GNPA as a cashew sector regulator would also help the business, raise production figures to appreciable levels and revive idling processing companies, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the agency, Mr Douglas Y. Kumasi, told the Graphic Business on March 11.
Annual output of cashew has stunted at 50,000 tonnes over the past five years, resulting in the collapse of 10 out of the 13 processors in the country within the period. The situation has led to a steady decline in foreign exchange earnings, which Mr Kumasi said GNPA could help reverse.
"Ghana should be able to have a body to regularise the cashew trade along the same line that we have regulated gold and cocoa trade. A specialised body should be in charge of licensing and should be able to agree on qualities and quantities being sent out," Mr Kumasi said. "The regulatory body should also be able to fix a price for cashew so that those buying will not be dictating prices to the farmers," he added.
That body, he said should be the GNPA, which has developed expertise over the years in the importation of essential commodities and the marketing of specific non-traditional exports (NTEs) in the international market. GNPA was established in 1976 as a strategic importer of essential commodities to help mute prices of those consumables in the local market. It was, however, restructured in the early 2000s under the Industrial Reform and Accelerated Growth Programme and the President's Special Initiative to focus on the supply of agricultural raw material inputs to local industries.
Under its new role, the company was to operate Export Trade Houses (ETH) that specialise in finding and developing export markets, where local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can enter the international market through strategic measures. Although the move is yet to improve the fortunes of the GNPA, the CEO said it presented the company a fine opportunity to wholly takeover the cashew business, which is barely regulated. "I know the current development parading does not favour regulation; it wants free trade but there ares some sectors that require that require some bit of regulation to grow. But you know that the cashew industry is still in its infant stage and if you do not support, it will die," he said.
Recent estimates showed that 60 districts in the country are conducive for cashew production, although only districts in the Brong Ahafo Region are currently being utilised. With GNPA's expertise in marketing, Mr Kumasi said granting it more powers would empower it to link farmers with buyers, invest in farm improvement and help set prices for the nuts. "If the structures are properly in place, we can earn more than US$300 million from cashew easily," he said, pointing to the increasing demand for the nuts globally. In January, this year, stakeholders in the cashew business lunched a policy initiative aimed at raising output from the current 50,000 tonnes to 150,000 tons in ten years' time, a target the GNPA CEO said could be difficult to achieve if the sector is still unregulated. "Under the current dispensation, cashew is under Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) but they do not have time for it like cocoa. If we takeover, we can invest proper time and resources in it," he said.