A delegation from the African Cashew Initiative (ACi), on Wednesday 13th January 2016, held a meeting with H.E. Mrs. Novisi Abaidoo, Ghana’s new Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) at the Conference Room of the Ghana Embassy in Brussels.
The ACi delegation was led by its Executive Secretary, Madam Rita Weidinger and included Messrs. Seth Osei-Akoto, a Deputy Director at the Crops Services Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in Ghana and Ulrich Sabel-Koschella, Head, Value Chains Agriculture, Africa Regional Cooperation and Horn of Africa. Other members of the delegation were Mrs. Filomena Albano Maiopue, the Director of the Cashew Promotion Institute (INCAJU) in Mozambique as well as Mr. Chadreque Luis Nhanengue, a Research Officer from the National Cashew Program, also of Mozambique.
Embassy officials who were present at the meeting, were Messrs. Joshua Azure, William Okaikoe, Adam Abdul-Rahaman and Felix Osei Boateng, Minister Counsellor for Trade, Minister Counsellor for Political and Economic, Counsellor for Political and Economic, Head of Chancery respectively.
Welcoming the delegation, H.E. Novisi Abaidoo expressed delight at the visit, and seized the opportunity to commend the ACi for seeking to collaborate with Ghana in the promotion of non-traditional export commodities. She informed the delegation that H.E. President John Dramani Mahama's Administration had prioritized the expansion of the export sector in Ghana as a strategy to accelerate the realization of the government’s Transformation Agenda.
H.E. Mrs. Novisi Abaidoo intimated that the Government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), had also identified cashew production not only as an agricultural activity but a key industry with huge potential for increased employment opportunities for women and the youth in rural Ghana, with the added advantage to generate income for vulnerable smallholder farmers and was putting in place, the right policies to encourage private sector investment into the cultivation and processing of cashew.
She informed the delegation that in view of the relationship between the cashew initiative and poverty eradication, women empowerment and job creation, she had already flagged the cashew initiative as one of the priorities the Mission was going to advance in its discourse with the ACP. In this regard, she had raised the issue with the ACP Secretary-General in her maiden meeting with him on 12th January, 2016 and sought his assistance in allocating funds in that regard, from the 11th EDF.
She also intended to engage her counterparts in the ACP Committee of Ambassadors after she had been officially introduced to them in order to get their buy-in, so that together, a more concerted approach could be developed to push for more ACP resources to be directed into the sector.
Briefing her Excellency about the work of the ACi, Madam Weidinger stated that her organization's overarching objective was to act as a catalyst for cashew cultivation and processing in its target areas of operation. This they did, by providing funding, research, training and access to new technologies for cashew farmers so as to strengthen the global competitiveness of cashew production. She disclosed that currently, the ACi was piloting the cashew project in five (5) countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, namely Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d' Ivoire and Mozambique, with the possibility of expansion into other countries.
Madam Weidinger highlighted the immense potential of the cashew crop as a viable non-traditional export product for Ghana and by extension, the African, Carribean, and Pacific Group (ACP) of States at large.
She solicited the support of the Embassy to help galvanize and sensitize other Member States within the ACP about the economic opportunities inherent in cashew cultivation in order to ensure that the needed attention of the Group was focused on attracting the required investments into the cashew sector.
On its collaborative work, which cut across institutions in both the public and private sectors, Madam Weidinger, singled out for special mention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation as key funding partners on board the cashew initiative. Other private sector institutions included TechnoServe, Intersnack, Olam, Kraft Foods, among others.
She also stated that Ghana, in particular, had considerable comparative advantage for cashew cultivation in view of its favourable climatic conditions and the availability of arable land and added that the growing interest in the crop, by Ghanaian farmers, was as a result of the high demand and the flourishing export market. She added that the cashew industry in Ghana could boast of a number of processing companies, with a total installed capacity of over 2,500 tonnes per year and further disclosed that there was a great opportunity to expand the existing processing capacity.
She mentioned further that despite the progress recorded in the cashew value chain in Ghana, the industry still faced a number of bottlenecks and required interventions in areas such as access to improved planting materials for farmers in order to increase cultivation. There was also the need to scale-up extension and training activities to increase awareness of cashew production and processing by promoting good agricultural practices, which meant that additional funding sources would have to be explored to complement the Government of Ghana’s intervention in the sector.
Making a case for the adoption of the Cashew Initiative as an Intra-ACP project, Madam Weidinger made reference to a recent adoption of a Concept Note on Cashew by the ACP Council of Ministers, and the subsequent call on the Secretariat of the Group to prioritize the cashew issue. She disclosed, that the ACi had consequently been engaging the ACP Secretariat and had, in this regard, submitted a Technical Document, along with a proposed plan of action on the cashew project in order to ramp up support for the cashew initiative. She further added that the ACP could unlock funding under the 11th EDF Intra-ACP Development Cooperation Programme to the tune of about Eight Million Euros (€8m) if the necessary steps were taken.
H.E. Mrs. Novisi Abaidoo welcomed the interest and advocacy role of the ACi, which was geared towards drawing attention to the cashew sector and pledged to work closely with it to advance the shared goals, which were in tandem with the objective of the Government of Ghana to diversify its exports market.
The delegation later presented some samples of products made from cashew nuts to H.E. Mrs. Novisi Abaidoo and thanked her for the warm audience granted them.