Business News of Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Source: Daily Graphic

Shea industry faces iminent collapse....due to low prices

The National Association of Shea-nut Farmers, Processors and Buyers of Ghana has alerted the government to the imminent collapse of the shea industry following the drastic reduction in the price of bag of shea-nuts.

According to the association, the government had, for the first time through the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), unilaterally announced that a 90 kilogramme bag of shea-nut should be sold at GH¢36.

It noted that that price represented a 31 per cent reduction over the existing market price, which was GH¢.52 for 85 kilogrammes.

It, therefore, intimated that if the government's involvement in the shea industry was to worsen the plight of the players and supervise the crumbling of the industry, then it was better it allowed the existing arrangement, in which market forces determined the prices, to prevail.

At a press conference in Tamale to put " forth their grievances~ the actors in the shea-nut value chain argued that the fixing of unfair prices had discouraged many of the farmers and processers, particularly the women and youth, from continuing with the business.

They cautioned that the collapse of the shae industry would have dire consequences on poverty levels in the country because many people in the three northern regions and parts of the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions depended on the shea industry for a living.

“The shea nut business is the main source of livelihood for the people of the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. Due to poor prices, however, the business is in crisis because the women are no longer prepared to pick the nuts,” the General Secretary of the association, Mr Emmanuel Abu Alhassan Nyabto, stated.

He said the National Democratic Congress (NDC) had promised, during the 2008 electioneering, to revamp the sector, only to come and further impoverish actors in the industry.

Mr Nyabto again raised issues with COCO BOD for failing to involve the association in fixing the new price for shea-nut and, therefore, blamed it for what it described as a wrong decision.

He alleged that the fixing of the low price was an attempt to favour the international and local companies that were buying the nuts because they would now pay less for more.

Meanwhile, he said the collapse of the shea industry could impact negatively on the livelihoods of many women who went through risks, such as snake bites, to gather the nuts to sell to middlemen.

“When the industry collapses, these women will lose their source of livelihood and this will deepen rural poverty,” Hajia Abiba Salifu, a shea-nut dealer, stated.

She said it was through the picking and selling of shea-nuts and its butter that many women in the north were able to get some income to take care of their families, particularly the children.