More cash returns from cashews
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CTA. 1997. More cash returns from cashews. Spore 70. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48790
Africa is third in terms of global production of cashew, producing approximately 100,000 tonnes per year. Although the crop is much in demand, particularly in the United States and in Europe, Africa gains little profit from its production, most of...
Africa is third in terms of global production of cashew, producing approximately 100,000 tonnes per year. Although the crop is much in demand, particularly in the United States and in Europe, Africa gains little profit from its production, most of which is exported raw to India for processing. The Benin example shows very clearly that African countries are able to produce good quality cashew nuts, but it also demonstrates missed opportunities when it comes to processing and a consequent loss of potential income in regions of production. The cashew nut tree (Anarcardium occidentale) is a 10m high fruit tree, which came originally from Brazil. It was introduced into Africa long ago and is now more widespread in Africa than in any other continent. It tolerates a wide range of rainfall regimes and is adapted to many types of soil, including marginal, degraded land on which it can be planted for reforestation. The fruit comprises the highly-prized nut, which is surrounded by a false fruit, the cashew apple. The cashew nut kernel is used as a cocktail delicacy or in the food industry for the manufacture of nougat, biscuits, ice creams etc.. The juicy, sweet cashew apple has nine times more vitamin C than the orange and the pulped fruit can be used for fruit juice, alcohol, sweets or fruit pies. The cashew nut shell liquid, which is extracted from the shell surrounding the kernel, is an astringent, corrosive oil valued by industry for its unique properties which make it useful for the manufacture of vehicle brakes, clutch linings and insulating material. Brazil and India are the two major producers of cashew nuts, (200,000t and 120,000t per year respectively). The third largest global source of nuts is Africa (about 100,000t), of which Tanzania produces 15,000t, and Mozambique 4,000t; Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal and Togo are also significant producers. Case history: Benin Benin now occupies a significant place in cashew nut production: its exports have increased from 3,500t in 1993 to 15,500t in 1996. Benin cashews command a high price because of their quality, which bas earned the country a reputation as one of the three best producers in the world. Even though Benin cashew nuts in the international market are priced at 25% more than those from other countries, most exporters say that they cannot meet demand. Like the cashew production from other African countries, most of Benin's cashews end up in India, which absorbs 90% of the country's exports, and the demand ensures a premium price. According to Jean-François Vavasseur of the French Development Bank in Cotonou, 'The revenue from cashew plantations is very attractive because of continuing demand, particularly since devaluation of the CFA franc.' The growth in the number of cashew trees planted has been spectacular in recent years, particularly in cotton-growing areas, where farmers plant trees directly in the cotton fields. This practice is welcomed, because it encourages farmers to protect their fields from bush fires. Furthermore, farmers, entrepreneurs and young, qualified people are also investing in the production chain. A study by the Ministry of Rural Development takes the view that, 'The continuing increase in world demand, which is still not being met by production, should guarantee a sound future for this product.' This is confirmed by the French Development Bank in Cotonou which suggests that, 'The development of cashew nut production appears to be one of the most important in the search for diversification in agricultural production and sources of revenue for the rural population.' This is of particular significance to, Benin, where there is a need to diversify from cotton production which, in 1994, accounted for 70% of export earnings.' A complex processing method In Benin, as in much of Africa, the cashew nut is not processed where it is grown. The high-value kernel is difficult to extract because it is surrounded by a liquid and the whole kernel protected by a shell. If the shell is simply cracked open, the result is an oily paste. The simplest processing method, which is used in India, is to toast the nuts and then crack them to, obtain the kernels, which are then graded. The process must be done carefully because if the kernel is broken it loses more than half its value. Processing plants using this technique of heating or roasting have been installed in Africa, notably in Madagascar, Mozambique and Benin, but the problems of obtaining sufficient and consistent supply of raw material has meant that many have now closed. India has a processing capacity of about 600,000t per year which is much higher than its own local production. Indian manufacturers are therefore ready to pay a significant advance in order to ensure supply. Their buyers go round African villages and give farmers an advance in order to establish priority purchase over competitors. Local African factories are therefore unable to obtain an adequate supply of cashew nuts because they cannot meet the purchase price that the Indian buyers have negotiated; yet they still remain profitable. Some estimates have suggested that African countries are losing about $100 million per year by not processing their cashew nuts. The technology used in India could be adapted for Africa and small processing units set up to absorb production. The potential is good, particularly if the results of research on hybridization of varieties, control of diseases and improved cultural practices were to be made widely known. Benin, and also Mozambique, are beginning to bring their disused factories back into production as a response to, growing demand for the product, particularly from new markets in the Middle-East and South East Asia. The factory in Parakou, in Benin, which bas been shut since 1987, is expected to be operational again by the end of 1997, with the capacity to process 1,500t of nuts per year. In order to compete with Indian buyers, a plantation of 800 hectares of cashew trees will supply the factory with raw material. It will be interesting to follow progress. If the enterprise is successful it may encourage other African countries to follow suit and get a better cash return from their cashews. [caption to illustration] Factories in Benin process their cashew nuts to maximize profits