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  • Outlook of cashew Industry in Africa

    Apr 2nd, 2016

    Dr D Balasubramanian

    Higher productivity within sustainable agricultural systems is a requirement for economic development and poverty alleviation in Africa. Cashew in particular can play an important role in the livelihood of many resource-poor farmers, small traders and local industries. In addition to the economic benefits of cashew to the farmers, traders and associated industries, cashew growing has also ecological advantages and play a vital role in stabilising and maintaining agricultural environments. Cashew has major economic, social and environmental benefits, not only for rural populations but also for the countries as a whole.

    Position of raw nut production and trade

    Cashew is grown exclusively in tropical countries for domestic consumption and export up to 85% of processed cashew kernels to temperate countries. It is produced commercially in as many as 32 countries in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa and Latin American located below equator. Total production in the world during the last fiscal was around 44.15 lakh MT which is almost 19-fold growth in reference to base year 1961. Mozambique, an east African country, maintained its premier position in early 60s and due to intervention of research and development in African countries, cashew production registered two-fold increase i.e. 9.21 to 18.81 lakh MT during the last decade. Of late, Nigeria, one of the West African countries, enhanced its production level on par with Vietnam and contributed 22% to the global production of cashew. Production in Ivory Coast has grown up rapidly in recent years with a share of 10% in the world production.

    Most of the cashew producing countries in East and West Africa are the major suppliers of raw cashewnut to India and are likely to remain as it is in the near future too, amidst strong competition from Vietnam and Brazil. Policy changes and revival of cashew processing facilities in Mozambique, its export quantity is restricted in the beginning of the century. While trading raw cashewnuts, coincidence of harvest season, quantity of production, quality assessment in terms of outturn and driage, farm gate price and tax levied at various levels, transit expenses in the importing countries plays decisive role in the business. Raw nut suppliers from Tanzania and Ivory Coast export throughout the year; thereby the importing countries are assisted in not carrying long-term stocks.

    Global scenario of cashew production

    Country      Area       (Lakh ha)     Production (Lakh MT)    Productivity (kg ha-1)

    Benin                  4.85                             1.80                                   371

    Brazil                  6.95                             1.10                                   158

    Burkina Faso       1.20                             1.15                                   958

    Cote d’ Ivoire         9.00                            4.50                                   500

    Guinea- Bissau     2.48                            1.38                                   558

    India                    9.82                             7.29                                  742

    Indonesia             5.75                             1.17                                  204

    Nigeria                 3.80                             9.50                                2500

    Tanzania              4.11                             1.28                                  312

    Vietnam              3.011                            1.11                                  3692

    Others                 6.92                             3.88                                   560

    Total                    54.47                          44.15                                 

    Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development, Cochin, Kerala (2015)

    Scenario of processing sector

    Mozambique and Tanzania are the two major cashew growing countries in East Africa involved in processing. During early 1970s, Mozambique acclaimed the premier position in production and exportation of processed cashew kernels in the world approximating 2.4 lakh MT per annum and became an exporter of significant volume of raw unprocessed nuts later. However, the industry has rebounded with production level of approximately 0.7 lakh MT of which 21% was domestically processed during the year 2012. In a crucial departure from the previously failed approach that was dominated by large-scale factories and use of mechanised technology, Mozambique principally makes use of manual shelling technology to achieve higher whole kernel outturn. However, the productivity of Mozambique’s factory workers is well behind India’s and Vietnam’s as well as that of other African processing industries such as Tanzania and Ivory Coast. Agro Industries Association plays a vital role in exporting the processed cashew kernels under a brand ‘Zamibique.’ Monitoring mechanism is in place to regulate and standardise the quality of pooled production for export and it is becoming a powerful tool for generation of individual factory diagnosis. Tanzania’s cashewnut sector is well positioned in the international market for raw cashewnuts, exporting 82% of national production due to a combination of seasonality and price.

    West Africa’s cashew processing sector which includes countries like Benin, Burkino Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo is quite small given the region’s status as the world’s second-largest producer of raw cashewnuts, contributing 40% to the world production. Based on the usage of machinery and processing quantity, cottage, semi-mechanised and fully automatic systems are followed in West Africa and cost-effective, Indian semi-mechanised is gaining momentum in recent times.

    Although plain cashew kernels are sold as such, few processors add value through secondary processing targeting high-end consumers to recover their elevated processing costs. Many West African processors remain largely reliant on local consumers due to limited production of specific grade in bulk quantity for export to sustain operations year-round. West Africa’s position as a raw nut exporter may change in the near future, as processing capacity is growing rapidly.

    Kernel trade

    Cashew nuts are an upmarket snack food and the demand is set to increase in view of its health benefits and the rising purchasing power of emerging economies. Whole kernels without defects or blemishes are required for the snack trade and the broken pieces are required for other confectionery, biscuits and bakery products and other prepared foods. Mostly plain cashew kernels are traded in the international market and secondary level processing takes place at the importing countries mainly in the United States of America and Europe for retail sale. As far as kernel market is concerned, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya from East Africa and Nigeria and Indonesia from West Africa supply comparatively large volume to other countries. Either processing facilities have not been strengthened or cost-effective system is not in place to manufacture cashew kernels for export in the competitive global market.

    Way forward

    Having regard to the hidden potential of African cashew industry, network approach of involving all stakeholders in the cashew value chain, certainly, resolve diversified issues. The overall strategy of interventions should revolve around participative and contractual approach to exploit enormous and varied opportunities offered by the cashew industry in Africa. Achieving an appropriate level of diversification of risk for farmers is important for long-term stability. In semi-arid areas cashew can have a competitive advantage over some other food crops. But it is of paramount importance that there should be right balance between food security and diversity of cash crops.

    The cultivation and collection of cashew nuts are labour-intensive activities, having the capacity to create employment, increase rural earnings and earn foreign exchange. Therefore, public and private sectors should gear up their activities to provide strong support to the cashew industry as a whole. In the era of the commodity board, production of quality material can be encouraged through assessment and valuation by the cashew commodity board.

    Cashew is a versatile crop with unlimited potential for growth and exports in Africa or elsewhere. At present, cashew kernels are the only items that have been fully exploited commercially. Full utilisation of its byproducts viz., cashew apple, CNSL, cashew testa and cashew shell will lead to a higher realisation of income for farmers and cashew processor-exporters. Currently, Africa will probably forecast an increasing market for raw cashewnuts. But sooner or later, increased cashew orchard in Vietnam and Brazil will reduce this demand, leaving India again as the first and last customer.