The government is to establish a shea nut development board to set recommended prices for shea nut to give adequate returns to the women who pick the nuts in rural areas.
The government will also provide protective equipment and tricycles for the women to enable them to pick about 65 per cent of the country’s shea nuts which go rotten or are burnt by bush fires.
Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who announced this when he opened an international conference on shea nut, said the government would also open up the road network in areas where shea trees are grown.
The conference was attended by stakeholders in the shea industry from 27 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States of America.The event also marked the inauguration of the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) to streamline activities in the shea industry.
Mr Mahama said over the last decade the shea nut industry had seen tremendous growth, noting that the trade in shea nuts and butter alone had grown by more than 1,100 per cent.
He said the value of exports of shea nuts was about $10 million in 2000 and it hit almost $120 million last year.
“If we are to add the value of semi-finished and finished products, this is quite easily a multi-billion dollar industry,” he stressed.
Mr Mahama said shea was highly coveted as a natural cosmetics ingredient and essential to the world’s food industry, particularly in the manufacture of chocolate.
The Vice President said shea nut was conterminous with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) belt and was, therefore, significant as an instrument for converting what was currently a belt of poverty into a region of prosperity.
He said the government had encouraged the Produce Buying Company (PBC) to set up a modern shea butter processing factory with Brazil Sales and Purchase and indicated that the collaboration “means that the products are sold already even before the factory is complete”.
He said work on the first processing plant had started at Buipe in the Northern Region, while two additional processing plants would be constructed and urged members of the GSA to promote awareness of shea nut to increase its demand and drive its continued growth.
The US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Donald Teitelbaum, urged producers of shea nut in Africa to add value to the produce and desist from merely exporting the nuts. He also asked the producers to focus on efficiency and improve the quality of the shea nuts in order to be more competitive on the international market.
Ghana's Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Hannah Tetteh, in a speech read on her behalf, said shea butter was significant to Ghana’s economy and that of other African countries.
The President of the GSA, Ms Eugenia Akuete, said her outfit would focus on improving pricing for shea nut in order to improve the living standards of the women who pick the nuts.