Ghana Trades and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), a nationwide advocacy organization striving for agriculture and trade justice, is to conduct a baseline study into the sheanut industry in the three northern regions.
The study will enable it to understand the challenges as a means of fashioning out a comprehensive advocacy programme to engage stakeholders in taking a decisive action on development of the industry.
The baseline study will cover challenges faced by farmers in picking the sheanut, marketing, price fluctuations among others and come out with solutions that will ensure that the industry promotes employment and enhance incomes of farmers in the three northern regions.
Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, the Coordinator of GTLC, said this at separate capacity building workshops for farmers' groups in Bolgatanga, Wa and Tamale.
He said the time had come for government to stop paying lip service and act on the development of the sheanut industry in the three northern regions.
Market for sheanut has grown by 25 per cent, mostly due to the influence of China.
In rural communities the average price of a ton of sheanuts more than doubled from GH¢112.5 in 2003 to GH¢250 per ton in 2008.
It is estimated that Ghana has the potential to produce 200,000 tons of sheanut annually but only about 130,000 tons is collected.
Out of these 70,000 tons is consumed while 60,000 tons is exported in the form of shea kernels and shea butter.
Mr Akalbila said an estimated 60 percent of sheanut was left in the bush uncollected because of the difficulties faced by pickers who are usually bitten by snakes.
He said appropriate policies were required to tackle some of these problems through a guarantee minimum price and marketing.
A cross-section of farmers called for the establishment of a separate board for sheanuts.
They also called for financial support for local pickers and buyers, storage facilities and research into the possibility of reducing the gestation period of shea nut trees to encourage its cultivation.
The tree currently grows in the wild and takes an average of about 15 years to start bearing fruits.
Mr Akalbila said farmers could deal with some of these concerns through advocacy programmes at the local level through discussions with stakeholders and an understanding of government policies on the sector.
He said it was only by this that they would be able to get government to implement policies contained in the national development framework.
Mr Akalbila said GTLC would in the next three years build the advocacy capacity of rice, sheanut and tomato farmers in the three northern regions.
The farmers were taken through steps in advocacy, identification of problems and how to develop action plans to deal with challenges.