Africa produces more than half of the world’s raw cashews but the continent has been unable to leverage on its processing capacity due to its negligible number of industries, missing out on opportunities offered by rising global demand.
This assertion was made by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in a recent report titled: Commodities at a Glance: Special issue on cashew nuts.
In the report, UNCTAD noted that the leading cashew producing countries of African rarely process the crop at a significant scale,retaining only a small share of the value created as the nut travels from the farm to store.
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“About 90 per cent of the raw cashew nuts traded in the global market are grown in western and eastern African nations. After Côte d’Ivoire, the leading cashew producers are Tanzania, Nigeria, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Ghana,” UNCTAD confirmed.
The report further averred that between 2000 and 2018, world trade in raw cashew nuts more than doubled to 2.1 billion kilograms with African producers led by Côte d’Ivoire accounting for almost two-thirds of the growth but the continent’s farmers and exporters receive only a fraction of the final retail price. the report said, highlighting
Reacting to the state of Africa’s cashew production and trade, Miho Shirotori,head of trade negotiations and commercial diplomacy remarked that irrespective of the fact that cashews are a source of income for an estimated three million smallholder farmers in Africa, African farmers, exporters and workers are missing out on a wealth of opportunities resulting in the market being dominated by Europe and North America where 60 per cent of traded kernels are roasted, salted, packaged for final consumption, thereby adding more value to the commodity and generate more wealth in the cashew value chain compared to African farmers/producers.
The UNCTAD report called for a policy environment in Africa that enables cashew processors to operate with competitive transformation costs and facilitate access to the main export markets.
It also recommended policies that would strengthen African countries’ productive capacities which include; ensuring farmers have access to quality seedlings and technological know-how, increasing training for farmers on entrepreneurship and farm management, supporting research that helps identify agricultural practices and technologies that work best in local environmental conditions and improving rural infrastructure.
The report stressed that the traceability, transparency and sustainability of food supply chains is becoming increasingly important for consumers and suppliers globally, highlighting that this could benefit African processors who source their nuts locally rather than through long supply chains.