Nigeria’s Commodity Exchange recently commissioned cashew nuts processing and warehousing facilities at Egume/Ochaja, Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State to minimise losses incurred as a result of delayed export of the crop.
The facilities are to serve as the point for stacking, weighing, and evacuation of cashew nuts from Niger, Edo, Benue, Kwara, and Kogi States for export.
Nigeria has about 600,000 surviving cashew trees spread across the country, in all parts of the country. Currently, 75 per cent to 80 per cent of cashew nuts produced in Nigeria are exported, as only very few companies are involved in the local processing of the produce. The industry is also a vibrant employer, providing about 600,000 jobs and an annual trade worth N24 billion. The cashew industry is a major contributor to the nation’s non-oil GDP.
The government’s liberalisation policy on commodity crops has impacted significantly on the prices and demand for raw cashew nuts in the recent past. The role of local buying agents in the supply chain did not only increase the supply of the product but also healthy competition.
Also is the increase in holding capacity of the product through the expansion of warehouses by the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX). The NCX commissioned 12 delivery warehouses in 2020. These additional warehouses spread across the six geopolitical zones have a combined capacity of more than 26,000 metric tonnes.
Despite the above, several factors hinder Nigeria from achieving its full potential in the cashew sector.
For one, the process of handling the product has its impact on the final quality. The export market is stringent about products meeting the required standards. The United States, for instance, has a high regulation set by the American Food Industry. This standard cannot be compromised when importing food products into the country. The same applies to European countries.
Unekwuojo Edime, president of Cashew Farmers Aggregators and Processors of Nigeria, said a major factor impeding the production of cashew in the country is the lack of a domestic market.
He said Nigeria’s cashew has low patronage at home and high demand abroad. He said the crop’s consumption at home is not big enough to compensate farmers for their investment, because the quality specification of the cashew in Nigeria does not meet the export requirement.
He explained that the varieties that have been planted in Nigeria over the years are wild, not improved varieties and so the yield is reduced and some of these trees are aging.
Data from Food and Agricultural Organisation, shows that Nigeria’s cashew production averaged 255,416 tonnes annually between 2010 and 2019. On yearly basis, the total output of the country declined from 2010. Interestingly, 2010 remains the year for which the country recorded the highest output in the years under review.
The total output of cashew declined from 2010 to 2015 when the country recorded an output of 97,149 tonnes. Output increased to 98,291 tonnes in 2016 and 100,000 tonnes in 2017. The country’s output stabilised at 100,000 tonnes.
Garba Kontagora, a cashew farmer, and national coordinator of Cashew Farmers North said although cashew is an income generator for the country, and an international business, it lacks government support which is a major problem.
Yunusa Enemali, a cashew farmer and the national publicity secretary of the Association of Cashew Farmers Aggregators and Processors of Nigeria told PREMIUM TIMES that the Ministry of Agriculture is paying lip service and not doing anything about cashew production.
He said cashew production is faced with a lot from planting, preparation, harvesting, and handling. He said there is no support from the government, by way of incentives or funds.
Ajani Ezekiel, a cashew farmer in Oyo State said, “Middlemen buy cashew nuts at prices they’re willing to buy, and as farmers, we do not have a choice but to sell. Lack of capital to purchase fertilisers and no empowerment from the government .”
Ejim Nnenna, a cashew farmer and national vice president of the Association of Cashew Farmer’s Aggregators and Processors of Nigeria, lamented that she has not received any support from the government, coupled with difficulty to acquire land for the cultivation of cashew, and getting improved seeds.
Surmounting the challenges
There are numerous opportunities to take advantage of in the cashew sector, only if the challenges are dealt with.
Cashew is used for jam, cooking oil, biscuits, bread, bio-gas, jet fuel, hydraulic, brake fluid, paints, shoe polish, and more.
Edime said: “We have been working with NIRSAL on their Agro cooperatives for cashew development. We begin with the maintenance of existing plantations. Because when those cashews were planted, the knowledge out there was not much. Through interventions programmes and improved varieties can also be planted.
“We have been talking to institutional players in the Agro sector so that they can establish industrial or commercial plantations because as it is over ninety per cent of cashew farmers are smallholders.”
Mr Edime told PREMIUM TIMES that he was aware that the Ministry of Agriculture is working on extension services for different cooperatives. He said he hoped it will be extended to the cashew industry for improvement in the primary value chain and increase in knowledge.
“We have being building capacities of farmers, and forming them into cooperatives where they can be managed better at the village level so that funding can go directly to the farmers and manage their plantations well and get good quality for their cashew nuts for a better price,” Mr Edime said.
Idachaba Ebenezer, head of the Department of Laboratory Management at Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service said: “Before now, most of the cashew we were getting were indigenous that grew on their own, not as planted plantations. What we are doing now is a lot of advocacy and to substitute the old ones for hybrids, and following good agricultural practices.
“Everyone that passes through the quarantine services, particularly when it comes to hygiene, we ensure its treated. For now, we don’t have rejections, the only issue of quality we have is in the size and not bad cashew. For the control of pest and hygiene is good for now,” Mr Ebenezer noted.
Hemense Orkar, Vice President Commercials at AFEX said he deals directly with cashew traders and aggregators to add value to the supply chain, in which market access is then provided.
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