Home   >   NEWS & VIEWS   >   News

  • The cashew alternative

    Apr 14th, 2016

    In this season of diversifying the economy, cashew seems a viable option

    It is probably the best nut man ever cultivated – cashew nuts. Crunchy, with an irresistible taste of its own, when properly roasted, it is unlikely there are people who detest this nut. Newsmaxhealth, an online journal, quoting experts, ranked cashew nuts second (only to pistachios) on its 10 Healthiest kind of Nuts table.

    Here is its citation on the nut: “Cashews have more than double the iron of a one-ounce serving of ground beef. They also provide 38 percent of your daily copper needs. If you are deficient in copper you may develop anemia, osteoporosis, and arthritis, have increased LDL cholesterol levels, and become more susceptible to infections. Cashews are also a great source of zinc, which plays an important role in boosting the immune system. It also helps in wound healing and aids our senses of taste and smell. These healthy nuts have less fat per serving than almost any other nut and may be useful in preventing gallstones.”

    Cashew comes in double decks. It is a nut and a fruit held together in one of nature’s most bounteous Siamese presentation. If the cashew tree had borne just either of the fruit or nut, it would never have been found to be deficient. But nature made cashew a marvelous two-in-one package: a pulpy yellowish or reddish fruit (when ripe) with the seed (nut) attached at the tip of the fruit.

    The cashew fruit is no less useful than the nuts. Eaten regularly, it is said to possess such properties that could starve tumours and stop cancer cells from dividing. Studies have found that cashews can reduce colon cancer risk. They are reported to be also good sources of anti-oxidants that protect humans from heart diseases and cancer.

    Some of the finest wines are said to be produced from cashew. There are also cashew oil, butter, milk, cake, juice, flour and herbal formulas while the leaves and wood have vital uses too.

    We have highlighted all these to show that cashew which is quite abundant in Nigeria has huge economic potentials if the value chain is explored to the optimum.

    According to the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) it is the second largest revenue earner in the non-oil sector, generating over $300 million in export revenues last year.

    This quantum of yield comes from the background of a near lack of official policy and coordination in the cashew value chain today. Nigeria’s cashew belt and plantations cultivated at independence have become near moribund with trees aged and growing wild.

    There is hardly any effort at planting new high-yielding species while processing factories are few and obsolete. The bulk of cashew crops harvested in Nigeria therefore, go to waste.

    Buttressing this point, the president of NCAN in a recent media interview noted that Ghana produces only 50,000 tons of cashew but she has about 14 processing factories while Nigeria produces about 160,000 tons and processes less than 10 per cent.

    Cashew, according to experts, is in high demand across the world because of its numerous beneficial values to man. Different by-products of cashew are said to be in high demand in China, Europe and America, with demand said to be in the range of three million tons.

    Luckily, the NCAN said it had presented a roadmap for the development of the Nigerian cashew sector to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. It is hoped that the Federal Government would set up a committee immediately for the purpose of urgently unlocking the huge potentials in the cashew economy in Nigeria.

    As we have noted on this page several times, agriculture holds the key to diversifying the economy. Apart from cashew, we have poultry, fisheries, palm oil, animal husbandry and milk production, fruits and tomatoes juicing and concentrates making and palm products. Nigeria spends billions of naira importing these products annually. There is therefore, no better time to diversify than now.