Move to set up coconut market for Nzema
By: Alfred Adams
The mention of the commodity, coconut, is synonymous with the people of Nzema. Over the years, the people of Nzema have made capital out of the coconut business.
The major occupation of the people of the Ellembelle, Jomoro and Nzema, in addition to agriculture, is the local production of coconut, palm and palm kernel oil. It has provided employment for about 70% of the working population in these districts.
However, the arrival of the coconut disease has succeeded in withering the coconut trees on the soils of Nzema. In spite of the disease, the government has been supplying for free a new hybrid of coconut seedlings which can withstand the disease.
Nonetheless, it has been observed that the absence of a local coconut oil market centre at Nzema has resulted in the high cost of transportation to uncertain oil markets outside the region. In addition, there is the loss of income through robbery on the highways, coupled with poor pricing of the products by market queens in the cities.
In Ghana, coconut oil is versatile oil that finds usage in both edible and non-edible forms. High grade coconut oil, which is processed from the best quality coconuts cultivated under the supervision of experts, gives many health benefits, irrespective of the form in which it is produced.
It is against this background that the Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Busac Fund, is undertaking a research to address the problem.
The research seeks to establish baseline information on the estimated number of local coconut oil producers, so as to build a stronger coalition and seek support for enhanced coconut oil marketing through the establishment of a local coconut oil market, in order to improve upon the revenue earnings of oil processors and associated ancillary businesses.
The research was cross-sectional and used qualitative methods by employing the technique of snowballing, which was used to collect information from known coconut processors from the three districts of Ellembelle, Jomoro and Nzema East.
A list of all the communities in all three districts was used as the sampling frame, from which purposive sampling was used to select the potential oil communities. In all, 47 communities were mentioned to be potential oil processing points, with 19, 12 and 16 from the Ellembelle, Nzema East and Jomoro districts respectively.
Highway and Market Robberies
For the snowballing process, several focus group discussions were conducted, and it was noticed, according to the coconut processors in all three districts, that aside the numerous armed robberies on the highways, there was the issue of stealing and theft at the market places such as in Accra and Kasoa.
This is often carried out by the market porters with the help of large foamy materials to aid in the absorption process. This is especially rampant during the nights and wee hours of the morning, since these markets virtually have no security and lighting systems.
Lack of Control on Pricing
In addition to the robberies, there are market ‘queens’ who fix prices and take their share of the products, thereby further increasing the burden of potential losses. Sometimes, prices are at the discretion of the few clients, who call the shots.
For instance, there were five different changes in prices during the year 2010, out of which none favoured the processors, considering the total cost of production and transportation.
Non-standardisation in measurement
Again, the measuring practices vary. The measures of the processors are smaller than that of the buyers, and this creates losses for the processors. The standard “jerry can” varies from market to market, and sometimes, from season to season.
Some of the market women even attested to sexual harassment by the buyers. Others have been threatened with guns for demanding outstanding monies owed them by these buyers. Despite the high cost of production and transportation for these coconut oil processors, the frustrations of negotiating on prices may result in the return of goods intended for sale.
In all discussions, the coconut oil processors expressed the desire for a local market, but varied in opinions on the issue of where such a market should be located.
There is the need for all three assemblies to plan for an acceptable location for the establishment of a common local oil market. The three districts would also have to agree on how the resources and proceeds could be shared
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