Experts have urged West African cashew growers to shift their focus to quality and value addition to boost export earnings and create jobs for its fast-growing population.
The experts who spoke at a regional policy workshop organised by the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) under its Pro-Cashew project in partnership with the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC) said for every amount earned in the export of raw cashew, the region would have made much more if it were processed before export.
Mohammad Abubakar, Minister of Agriculture in his keynote address urged the region to emulate what the Asia continent is doing in terms of value addition.
We are not maximising the potential of the cashew crop in terms of job creation and revenue generation because we aren’t adding value, he said.
Abubakar, who was represented by Ukattah Chukwuemeka, director at the federal department of agriculture, Ministry of Agric, noted that if the region increases its value addition to 50 percent, more jobs will be generated owing to the multiplier effects.
He stated that the federal ministry is working with the Pro-cashew initiative and other relevant stakeholders in addressing issues limiting productivity across the cashew value chain in the country.
He added that under the partnership, it was agreed to formulate a five-year strategic cashew policy document for the country, saying a committee has been set up to produce the policy document.
Olivier Kabre, programs director of the Pro-cashew project, said the West Africa region has been a significant contributor to the global cashew market, with significant raw nuts production.
However, he stated that despite the potential for growth in the sector, several challenges such as poor infrastructure, limited access to finance, access to reliable cashew industry data, and unfavorable government policies have hindered its development.
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To help address the sector’s policy challenges in the West African cashew sector, the Pro-cashew project is working with actors across the value chain in the region to boost the production of quality cashew nuts.
“No production, no value chain. Africa is leading in the production of cashew nuts but to be competitive enough we need to produce quality cashew because we are now having competitors in Asia who are producing more with better quality,” he said.
“Pro cashew wants to make sure that the linkage between the farmers and processors is well tightened in a way that they can work together to ensure that producers produce quality and processors will buy at the right price,” he noted.
“With this, the cashew value chain in the region will succeed and be sustainable,” he added.
According to him, the project is supporting countries to focus on improving quality and facilitating processing locally.
Speaking also, Tola Faseru, national president of African Cashew Alliance said cashew has become an important export commodity for the region’s economy, adding that Africa produces over 50 percent of the nuts consumed globally.
He noted that to ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the African cashew, the continent must add value to its nuts.
“We must also add value to earn more from cashew and provide more jobs. We need to retain the value of what we are producing. We only retain 20 percent of most of the commodities produced in Africa, while the other 80 percent is retained in Europe, Asia, and America,” he said.
“We want to change the narrative and retain the value. To do this we must ensure we produce cashew with the right quality, add value and drive industrialisation through the sector. When we export raw cashew we are exporting our jobs out of Africa,”
Explaining some of the hurdles cashew farmers in Nigeria face, Ojo Ajanaku, national president of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) said farmers are in dire need of government support to boost productivity.
According to him, the country will only maximize its cashew production when the government moves from talking to taking action in implementing policies that will aid production and boost productivity.
Olorunfemi Toyin, the country representative of the USDA West Africa Pro-cashew project, noted that raw cashew nut production and processing are essential economic activities, providing livelihoods for millions of smallholder farmers, youths, and women in the region.
While the industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, the downsides to raw cashew nut production such as price volatility, unstable policies, inconsistent quality and environmental impacts, unstable policies, inconsistent quality, and environmental impacts among others are some of the issues that were discussed at the workshop.