Nigeria has been losing $5 billion (N380bn) annually from Cashew nut tree by not given deserving attention to it despite having capacity to create enormous wealth for farmers across the country and generate huge foreign exchange for the government.
According to data from the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), due to lack of value addition and Nigeria’s inability to process cashew nuts in significant quantities for export, the country lost $1.4 billion in 2016.
According to the information, Nigeria exported a total of 160,000 metric tonnes of cashew valued at $300 million in 2016. This was far behind what farmers and exporters could have earned assuming there were processing factories that could process cashew nuts for export standard.
The cash crop (cashew), which is an important industrial and export crop whose potential is yet to be fully exploited in Nigeria, is said to provide livelihood for over 300,000 families and has created 600, 0000 jobs.
Historically, in the 1980s, Vietnam’s cashew production was in the same level with Nigeria’s production. In the early 1990s, Vietnam began processing its cashew and 16 years later, the country had become the largest processor and exporter of cashew kernels in the world and by 2013, Vietnam already earned $1.8 billion from cashew kernel export to over 80 countries. Currently, India’s cashew exports amount to over $2.5 billion and Vietnam generates as much as $3 billion each year, mainly from processed kernel.
However, the Nigerian cashew industry is suffering from declining productivity and dwindling export earnings, thus making the commodity less competitive in the international market, compared with other African countries like Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin Republic and Ghana.
Recently, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said Nigeria would start exporting processed cashew nuts by 2019, adding that currently a tonne of processed cashew nuts, when exported, is sold for $10,000 while the raw cashew nuts are sold at $1,200.
He explained: “It would be beneficial to process the nuts and export rather than exporting the nuts raw. So in the next two years, we will no longer export raw cashew nuts, but roast the cashew nuts for export.”
But industry watchers countered the claims made by the Minister, saying that government talks too much but does little in terms of action. They said the Minister should put in place a master plan that will ensure that exporting processed cashew nuts by 2019 is feasible.
LEADERSHIP gathered that in Nigeria, cashew grows successfully in virtually all agro-ecological zones including the semi-arid areas but with high concentration in the middle belt areas in smallholder farms and plantations. Cashew production comes from over 28 states including Kogi, Kwara, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Benue, Cross River, among others.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP, a cashew exports expert/Managing Director of Universal Quest Limited, Sotonye Anga, said for the industry to be galvanised, strengthened, restructured and better positioned, it requires at least a N100 billion intervention fund to put the industry in top shape. He said a minimum of N20 billion will help.
Anga said the industry needs to be intensified to drive growth of industry, which will attract investors, saying priority must be given to cashew processing to ensure that Nigeria’s cashew processing capacity becomes competitive.
He added that “When you are processing cashew, you know that you are processing a global product that will be consumed globally. So issues of quality become very critical, which means that there is need to deploy the right kind of technology to deliver high quality value added cashew. The equipment for processing will cost money because they are not produced locally; they have to be imported. We need to ensure we have right machinery to process cashew and build the right infrastructure.