Stakeholders have called on government to prioritise cashew production in the country in view of its “huge economic benefits”.
They made the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
According to the stakeholders, the crop is not only a big foreign exchange earner, but also a sustainable source of income to farmers.
The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree plant that produces cashew seed and the cashew fruit, both are important industrial raw materials, among other uses.
The National Coordinator, Commodity Association of Nigeria, Dr Tunde Arosanyin said that although Nigeria was one of the major cashew producers in Africa, the bulk of the nuts were exported raw.
According to him, the country exported 175,000 metric tonnes of raw cashew nuts valued at 386 million dollars (about N118 billion) in 2016.
In 2017, Nigeria exported 220,000 metric tonnes of 402 million dollars (about N123 billion), Arosanyin noted that the country would earn much more higher with value addition.
“Currently, we are processing just about 10 per cent of the cashew nuts we produce, while the remaining 90 per cent end up in the international market at low price.
“Processing is dominated by the Asians like Indians and China. For example, Olam Nigeria has a processing centre in Ilorin, and they buy at a very low price from farmers.
“They process, do value addition and sell to European countries, especially the UK and Vietnam,’’ he said.
Arosanyin said that the cashew fruit had also been under-utilised in the country, noting that farmers “just remove the nuts for sale, and discard the fruits’’.
“From the fruit alone, Nigeria is capable of making over N50 billion annually because it is a raw material for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.
“However, Nigerians are not doing anything with the apple other than just eating it, leaving more than 80 per cent wasted,” he added.
Mr Donald Akule, an agribusiness consultant said that for the country to maximise its potential in cashew production, government should adopt the value-chain approach that would involve all players.
Akule advised the Federal Government to make inputs available to cashew farmers at subsidised prices, and encourage Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in processing.
He called for adoption of the State Partnership for Agriculture model to bring cashew producing states such as Oyo, Benue, Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Kaduna and the FCT on board.
Speaking in similar vein, Arosanyin called for provision of extension services to the farmers, especially to guide them on how to dry the nuts after harvest.
The Federal Government is already thinking in this direction with plans to set up cashew processing plants in four states.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had told NAN that the country was currently wasting an estimated eight million tonnes of cashew fruits annually.
He said that the proposed plants would not only address the waste but also add value to the produce, and create wealth and employment in the country.
According to him, the long term solution to the delay in export and stocking of cashew nuts at the ports is for Nigeria to be exporter of finished products and not raw materials.
The minister said: “the Cashew Association of West Africa told me that we waste eight million tonnes of the commodity.
“We are very troubled by this development but later in the year, I will met with the cashew producers and farmers association to sit down with the CBN to get some help.’’