Accra , June 30, GNA - Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Wednesday said the international sheanut market had almost collapsed leading to very low demand for the produce and a stockpile of sheanuts.
He said this had resulted in the inability of the Produce Buying Company (PBC) and the Cocoa Coffee and Sheanut Farmers' Association to export their stocks and expand marketing operations.
Mr Ahwoi made this known on the floor of parliament when he answered a question tabled by Mr Joseph Akati Saaka, the member for Bole/Bamboi, on steps the Ministry is taking to clear the glut of sheanuts in the three northern regions since 2008.
He said as a permanent solution to the glut problem, PBC had initiated a program to build a sheanut processing factory in northern Ghana to process its purchases for export and COCOBOD had secured a $10 million loan on behalf of PBC to support the initiative.
The factory is expected to go into processing of the nuts into shea butter which has a good market.
PBC has since started the construction of the sheanut processing facility and to facilitate it, stakeholders met in Accra in 2009 and finalized a sheanut development strategy for implementation.
He said the strategy sought to make the industry vibrant by creating internal and external marketing opportunities for buyers to export their sheanuts and make the industry commercially viable.
Records from the Ghana Export Promotion Council indicate that annual exports of sheanuts range from 32,000 metric tonnes.
USAID (2004) also estimated Ghana to have a potential production of 200,000 metric tonnes and an actual collection of 130,000 metric tonnes per annum.
Mr Ahwoi said an increase in collection to 100,000 metric tonnes per annum would considerably alleviate poverty in the northern part of the country.
Mr Ahwoi said sheanut marketing was privatized in 1992/1993 alongside coffee and since then, internal and external marketing of sheanuts had been undertaken by licensed private sector companies.
COCOBOD is no longer involved in direct purchases or exports of she nuts but maintains a regulatory role by vetting and approving applications of private buyers seeking to purchase sheanut.
The licensed private companies are however required by the regulations to submit to COCOBOD periodic reports on their sheanut marketing operations.