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  • In search of favourable policies for West African cashew 05/21/2023

    May 21st, 2023

    Cashew-producing countries in the West African sub region are losing huge revenues yearly, due to challenges that are pummelling the gains made in the industry. Some of the challenges are – reduced yields due to aging cashew tree stocks; farmers’ limited technical and financial capacity to rehabilitate and renovate aging orchards; and undeveloped nursery sector unable to provide timely and consistent high-performance seedlings to raise productivity. To address these problems, a three-day regional policy workshop was held in Lagos, to promote collective efforts towards the development of favourable policies for the region’s cashew sector. The workshop was organised by the PRO-Cashew Project, in partnership with the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC), other key cashew stakeholders and development partners. The project was funded by the United State Department of Agriculture and implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin Republic, and Burkina Faso. Though it was established that the region has been a significant contributor to the global cashew market, with significant raw cashew nuts production, but despite the potential for growth, several challenges such as poor infrastructure, limited access to finance, limited access to reliable cashew industry data, and unfavourable government policies have hindered its development. In his keynote address, the Minister of Agriculture, Mohammad Mahmood, who revealed that over the past decade, increased demand, expansion of orchards and government prioritisation has caused raw cashew nut production to become a critical commercial activity for smallholder farmers, and a major revenue stream for governments, regretted that the challenges were complicated by the fact that the same trade policies that have boosted exports also pit countries against their neighbours, producing uncoordinated regional policies that weaken public and private-sector support for cashew grower/seller advocacy efforts. Represented by a Director in the ministry, Okaka Bernard Chukwuemeka, the minister said the challenges have led the region to under-produce. “Take for example; Cote d’Ivoire is producing close to one million metric tonnes yearly, while Nigeria is producing only 350,000 metric tonnes. “Then, we are not maximising the potential of this crop in terms of job creation, in terms of foreign exchange earnings, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire are addressing the challenges and they are ahead of us, we are supposed to be producing more than the two countries, but you’ll find out that the challenges are making us to under-produce, then, we lose revenue. “In addition, we are processing just 10 per cent of what we are producing. Most of our cashew nuts are sold raw, with this; we are reporting jobs to Vietnam, Indian and other countries. If we add value to what we are producing like 50 per cent, we’ll create jobs because along the value chain – marketers, transporters, women who peel and others will have jobs.” The Programme Director of the project, Olivier Kabre, said the idea of the project was to assess the region and the cashew value chain issues, in terms of marketing and also in terms of politics that are applied in the sub sector, compared to the international market. “As you know the cashew value chain is a global value chain, it is produced in Africa, processed in Asia, but consumed in the Europe and the US. For the stakeholders in Africa to be competitive, they need to consider all the global stakeholders in the market and also the policies that are being applied to other countries. “The PRO-Cashew Project is committed to supporting the West African cashew industry and believes that through collective efforts, the sector can achieve its full potential. The Regional Policy Workshop in collaboration with CICC is one of the many initiatives the project has put in place to promote the development of the cashew sector in the region. “In addition to the foregoing objectives, other goals of the regional policy workshop is to develop a common understanding by supporting cashew producing countries in West Africa to develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the cashew sector, which could help to inform policy development and implementation,” he said. The President of the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), Mr. Babatola Faseru, said the essence of the workshop was to ensure that a robust partnership is built among institutions – both public and private for the development of the African cashew industry. He added that a continuous collaboration and discussion among the public and private sector actors are necessary to ensure growth and sustainability in the sector. According to him, the summit was also centered on two strategic objectives of the ACA, which are to effectively network stakeholders in the sector to receive information and to share knowledge to advocate for sector improvements and partnerships. “As you are aware that the ACA vision is to reach a sustainable African cashew industry that delivers globally competitive, value-added products and secures profitability for all actors. “To accomplish this vision, ACA works to create a platform for accelerating growth and investments in the African cashew industry through partnerships, advocacy, market linkages, technical support, and global networking for sharing information and best practices,” he said. The Country Representative of USDA West Africa Pro-Cashew Project, Olorunfemi Toyin, said through various collaborations with the public and private sectors in the region, the PRO-Cashew project has had a significant impact on West African cashew-producing countries since its implementation in 2020. He said the project has catalysed additional investments in the cashew sector, improved cashew productivity; increased cashew exports, domestic processing and advocacy for policy reforms, among others. “These outcomes will in no small way contribute to strengthening and improving the competitiveness and sustainability of the West Africa cashew value chain. In West Africa, 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 were some of the issues addressed at the workshop. “Given the significant contributions of the cashew sector to the West African economy, it is important for cashew-producing countries in the sub region to formulate effective policies and implement them to manage the cashew industry sustainably.”