Nigeria’s cashew farmers and exporters are benefiting from improved farming practices and packaging, leading to a significant increase in exports of the produce from the country.
The $315million cashew sub-sector is now playing a key role in boosting the country’s diversification strategy, as export figures between April and June 2017 show that the industry led the agricultural export for the period.
The latest foreign trade report, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that cashew exports increased by 463 percent, from N2.4 billion in first quarter 2017 to N13.5 billion in the second quarter of 2017 on a quarter-on-quarter basis.
The crop, which contributed less than two percent to total agricultural exports in the first quarter, contributed 45.4 percent to the sectoral export in the second quarter and 8.2 percent of total non-oil exports. The value makes the product the seventh largest export product in the second quarter of 2017.
Stakeholders say the export numbers are an indication that the cashew industry has the potential to be a major foreign exchange earner for the country.
“The performance of the country’s cashew production is as a result of the consistent and sustainable work in place to ensure that the country’s cashew gains global recognition and also a confirmation of the huge potential in the subsector,” said Anga Sotonye, publicity secretary, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) in a telephone response to BusinessDay questions.
“We have put in place the structure that ensures quality. Farmers are now drying their cashew nuts properly and packaging them well, using jute bags,” Sotonye said.
He further observed that a lot of cashew trees started fruiting this year, which increased the quantity of cashew exports to 175,000 metric tonnes from 160,000 metric tonnes last year.
Besides cocoa, cashew is another major cash crop in Nigeria that has huge export potential, farmers say. It can be eaten and also serves as industrial raw material in firms producing chemicals, paints, varnishes, insecticides and fungicides, electrical conductors, and several types of oil and also for the food and beverage industry.
“For the first time, the price of cashew in Nigeria surpassed that of cocoa. A tonne of cashew sold for N700,000 in April and May, while cocoa was selling for N600,000 then,” Zacheaus Egbewusi, chief executive officer, Agric-Commodity Inspection Limited, told BusinessDay.
“This is the best performance of cashew for exporters since the crop started gaining recognition in the country,” Egbewusi added.
The bulk of Nigeria’s cashew nuts and kernels are exported to Asia, Europe and the United States. The cashew crop can be grown in the entire South-West, South-South and South-East region of NIgeria, with Enugu, Oyo, Anambra, Osun and Kogi, having the largest production areas.
Apart from helping to maintain a healthy heart and bones, cashew also helps in weight loss. The most important product of the cashew tree is the nut, which is used as confectionery, followed by the Cashew Shell Nut Liquid (CNSL), which is of great industrial importance and is obtained from the seed pericarp by steam distillation or extraction with solvents.
“Nigeria has increased its cashew production to 175,000 metric tons (mt) from 160,000 mt,” said Tola Faseru, president of NCAN, during the association’s annual general meeting held in Abeokuta recently.
“Nigerian cashew quality now ranks high in the world, as the produce is subjected to proper drying and packaging and packing into jute bags before export,” Faseru said.
Still, the country is not yet maximising the earnings it can make from cashew exports, as it mainly exports unprocessed nuts.
A tonne of unprocessed cashew nuts currently sells for $1,800 in the international market, while a tonne of processed cashew sells for $12,000. This implies that the country could be losing about $1.8billion annually on the exportation of raw cashew nuts, based on the current quantity exported.
“For every amount earned in export of raw cashew in 2017, Nigeria would have made five times the value of what was made, if they were processed,” said Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG).