As state governments across the country continue to explore other areas to boost their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the face of the current economic crunch, the Kogi State government has devised a new strategy, not only to checkmate economic predators, but to also make good use of its natural endowment to boost its IGR, SAM EGWU writes. Naturally, each state in Nigeria is endowed with its peculiar economic potential. Despite this, records have shown that most states across the country have not really explored these economic strengths to encourage economic growth within and increase their IGR. Kogi State for instance, still maintains the highest producer of cashew nuts world over, producing over 100,000 metric tonnes out of estimated 200, 000 tonnes in 2017.
Aside this, the high quality of cashew nuts cultivated in the state has made it the most sort for in the country, sub-Sahara Africa and other parts in the world. The consumption of cashew nuts in the country has continued to increase, not only because of the nutritional value, but also its commercial value. Most states in the country that produce the commodity in commercial quantity have continued to put measures in place to safe guard the quality of the nut because of the value attached to it for revenue generation. Cashew is not just a healthy fruit; it is also the world’s favourite nut.
Statistics have also shown that 600, 000 metric tons of cashew are consumed annually and Kogi State has the capacity to turn its economy around with this precious nut. Sadly, this potential has not been really put to good use due to weak policies on the part of the Kogi State government, products’ adulteration and illegal movement of the product by unregistered and desperate merchants, such that the state continues to incur big losses. The state commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon Kehinde Oloruntoba, in conjunction with executive chairman, Kogi Internal Revenue Services, Mall Aliyu Salami, recently revealed that Kogi State is the highest producer of cashew nuts, world over.
They also stated that cashew nuts from Kogi State were highly valued in international business centres and have the potential of being more valued than crude oil, which is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. The state government has, however, warned that those behind the practices of adulterating the product in the state will be faced with dire consequences, particularly now that the market value of cashew nuts across the country and international market continue to gain traction. It is against this backdrop that government of Kogi State, recently, vowed to check and control such unwholesome practices to prevent attendant losses in revenue drive of the state. The Kogi State government, recently, moved to enforce the regulations of farm practices, especially pertaining to cashew nuts across the three senatorial districts of the state. Commissioner for Agriculture, Kehinde Oloruntoba, while addressing newsmen on the losses the state has incurred as a result of adulterated produce and illegal movement, revealed that the confluence state boasts of being the highest producer of Cashew nuts in the country but, however, decried the gradual decline in the number of investors in the sector largely due to activities of illegal middle men.
“Cashew business in the state has become all comers’ affairs without regulations. In 2017, the state produced over 100,000 metric tonnes, which drastically reduced in 2018. No serious government will fold its arms and watch its viable business sector, which can engage thousands of youths, collapse or drift off to extinction, as is currently happening”, he said. To ensure strict compliance with the reality on ground, the commissioner reiterated that it has now become an offence to pluck immature cashew nuts, sale of the fruits at farm gates without the accredited middlemen and buying and selling of the fruits without license. He emphasised that all dealers in cashew business must appropriately register with the state ministry of Agriculture, adding that smuggling of the products out of the state at odd hours to evade tax payment would attract sanctions accordingly. Cashew nuts have a long history in Nigeria dating back to 15th century. Then, it was mainly used in forestation schemes for the control of erosion in the former Eastern Nigeria. However, the commercial cashew plantation started in Nigeria in the early 1950s with the establishment of first commercial plantations at Oghe, Oji and Mbala by the defunct Eastern Nigeria Development Cooperation (ENDC) and Iwo, Eruwa and upper Ogun by the defunct Western Nigeria Development Cooperation (WNDC). From the location, the planting of the crop spread to other parts of Nigeria particularly the Central and Northern states of Nigeria. Research on cashew production and its uses started at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan and Ochaja in Kogi State in 1971.
The introduction of Brazilian cashew biotype with improved and desirable nut and kernel quality characteristics by CRIN has further increased the crops’ spread and popularity in Nigeria. The commodity of commercial importance is the nut, which contains 47 per cent; fat, 21 per cent; protein, 22 per cent and carbohydrate. It also contains vitamins, especially, thiamine. Research shows that cashew nuts contain protein, which is complete, having all the essential amino acids, and a kilogramme of the nut yields about 6000 calories compared to 3600 calories from cereals, 1,800 calories from meat and 650 calories from fresh citrus fruits. Because of this quality, the nuts are in great demand.
Worldwide trade in cashew exceeds US $2 billion and demand is increasing. There are great investment opportunities in the processing and export of the commodity in Nigeria. It is on this note that the executive chairman of Kogi Internal Revenue Service (KIRS), Mallam Aliyu Salami, expressed confidence that the revenue service, under his leadership, is ready to boost the revenue base of the state in critical business areas especially cashew nuts where it has comparative advantage among other states of the federation. “The stage is set by the political will of Governor Yahaya Bello to reposition business sector in the state. No responsible government would joke with its revenue generation, which is needed for overall development of the state”, he averred.The quest to safeguard the cashew nut and the plantation in the state for all intents and purposes of ensuring security and proper channel of the operative tendencies of different groups into the market for cashew nuts in the state, is not out of place. Nigeria is currently the sixth largest producer of cashew nuts in the World. Kogi State is the best producer of cashew nuts in Nigeria. This alone, speaks volumes of the economic potentials of the product. There is so much potential in cashew industry. However, with the potential comes the ability of how the industry works. The unwanted middlemen are to be filtered to properly know those who are keen in the business and how the processes could benefit the state and the producers; the farmer and federal government in the long run. The effort committed to improved cashew cultivation and yield shows its relevance to the economy and this is where the name CRIN comes handy. This body has conducted a series of research on cashew, which led to the introduction of improved seedlings. Today, the research has resulted in improved cashew yield and due to its nutritional value; the demand currently outweighs the supply. Hence, Kogi is the investor’s destination.