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  • Ivory Coast: Cashew boom with surging global exports

    Sep 24th, 2015

    Salty-snack junkies, the lactose-intolerant and lovers of Asian food are providing an economic boost for farmers in the war-torn northern provinces of Ivory Coast.The West African country is poised to surpass India as the world’s top grower of cashews. Ivory Coast output has tripled in the past decade, including a jump after the civil war ended in 2011, industry data show. At the same time, prices have rallied as global exports surged along with rising consumption in the U.S., China and India. Long a staple in Asian cooking, the nut increasingly is eaten raw as a snack, and companies like WhiteWave Foods Co. use it to make non-dairy beverages and ice cream.While people still consume far more peanuts -- not technically a nut but treated like one -- cashews have become a relative bargain among tree nuts such as pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts. Almonds surged to records over the past two years during a prolonged drought in California, the biggest grower. Ivory Coast, already the world’s top cocoa exporter, saw the value of its cashew shipments rise almost 50 percent this year to become the nation’s second-most valuable crop.

    Almonds, Pistachios

    The global cashew market last year was valued at $4.69 billion, compared with $8.32 billion for almonds, $7.33 billion for pistachios, and $6.45 billion for walnuts, according to the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council.Rising incomes in the emerging economies of Asia are a major driver of cashew demand, especially in India, where the nut is ground to a paste for curries and sweets. Demand in the country, which also processes raw cashews for export, more than doubled to 240,000 metric tons of kernels since 2004, according to the African Cashew Initiative in Accra, Ghana. In China, purchases reached 50,000 tons, up from almost nothing a decade ago.Expansion of the cashew industry has aided economic recovery following a decade-long civil war that divided a rebel-held north from the government-controlled south. A disputed election in 2010 sparked five months of violence and 3,000 deaths. Since 2011, the economy expanded 9 percent annually on average, and the government is targeting 10 percent this year.Ivory Coast production reached 625,000 tons of cashews in shells as of June 30, compared with 185,000 tons in 2005, council data show. Next year, the country aims to produce 700,000 tons and pass India by 2017, Sanogo said. The country still doesn’t have much processing capacity, so it ships mostly nuts in shells, which are removed at plants in Asia and then sold as kernels domestically or re-exported.