Experts proffer solution to cashew crisis
This is not the best of times for cashew farmers, exporters and other stakeholders in the cashew value-chain, as the industry is currently hit by a major glut that has plunged it into huge losses.Coupled with this is the rejection of 37,000 metric tonnes (mt) of the commodity exported to Vietnam, which is regarded as the largest processor, in addition to 67,000mt reportedly stuck in warehouse in Nigeria.
Though the glut is a national problem, Kogi State, adjudged the largest cashew producing state, generating about 100mt out of the estimated 220mt cashew nuts exported from the country yearly, is the worst hit, recording as high as N50b losses.The first Vice President of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), Stephen Ahiaba, who is also a cashew farmer based in Kogi, in a report said the state cashew industry was generating direct foreign revenue of over N70b before 2017, but currently, it has reduced drastically to less than N20b, losing N50b discount.
“The cashew price between 2014 to 2017 was in the region of N650, 000 to N700, 000 per tonne. If you put it together by 100 metric tonnes, which is our annual production, you will be getting about N70b per annum. But today, it has reduced from N70b to less than N20b per annum because there is quality failure.”Though The Guardian learnt that the issue of post harvest handling of cashew was identified as the major challenge for the glut, the Deputy Executive Secretary, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), Mr. Peter Bakare said high price of the commodity was responsible for the rejection in Vietnam.
“The price of raw cashew from Nigeria was higher than the price of finished products in the international markets. The banks in Vietnam that usually provide the loans to their buyers for purchase complained that the prices of the finished products are less than the price of raw materials. The Vietnam financial institutions, therefore, backed out of the business, stressing that it is not a profitable venture for its farmers, so the produce are stuck in Vietnam now,” Bakare said.
But former Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s agriculture sector, Prince Wale Oyekoya accused the country’s regulatory bodies of being responsible for the economic downturn in the industry. He indicted government officials of focusing more on how to generate revenue to government’s purse than seeing the quality acceptance of farm produce.
He said: “Cashew is one of our stable cash crops that can generate a lot of foreign exchange if properly managed by the concerned authorities. Quality is number one requisite to accept our cashew nuts overseas. Our regulatory bodies are the problem, causing economic downturn because they are more concerned with generating revenue to the government than seeing to the quality acceptance of our farm produce.
“Rejection of our products arise from quality of seedlings planted, types of fertilizer used, type and quantity of insecticide and pesticide used, system and method of preservation; and storage and quality of what we are exporting overseas.”Oyekoya said value addition with close supervision of the commodity’s quality is the only solution to permanently address incessant rejection of the country’s agric produce. “We are losing out in terms of foreign exchange and job creation. Without value addition to our farm produces, we will keep on exporting our wealth and employment to other countries with the way we export our raw materials.
“We have said it several times that government should give tax break and conducive environment to private sectors to establish factories, to add value to cashew products. “Apart from the famous nuts derived from the cashew, we still have a lot of byproducts from this golden crop amounting to billions of dollars if properly enhanced. The waste from cashew processing can even be used for animal feeds.”
The Director, Institute of Food Security, Environmental Resources and Agricultural Research (IFSERAR), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor Akin Omotayo, described the development as not just a loss to the farmers; but also a huge loss to the economy.
“I think we need to train and retrain our farmers. We also need to do a very aggressive training for our exporters. It is not the farmers that have all the problems, also the aggregators who go around to pick cashew, to pick cocoa stuff and all sorts of agro commodities for export without adherence to acceptable standards.
“In those days, there were cocoa inspectors in local areas, who vet and grade them into categories before they are certified for exports, but today everybody seem to be in the export business, they don’t even read what standards are required in those countries they are exporting to, they don’t read about the conditions in terms of climate issue, in terms of packaging, they don’t look at the standard at all, they are just eager to export,” he said.
Omotayo said usage of agro chemicals that have been banned in other parts of the world is another challenge, advising that farmers should know what to use for weed control in particular and for crop production to prevent damages.“You’ll discover that Ghana has mastered all we are talking about, their products are all over the place. 90 per cent of the cashew we export are meant for industrial use and once the standards are not adhered to, they are rejected out there because the commodity will not be able to do what they expect it to do.”