Cashew potentials under-utilised
Aside the agricultural potentials in palm oil and cocoa, Ondo State has a greater potential in cashew production, with its availability in all the 3,296 communities in the 18 council areas of the state.
According to a Kenyan-based firm, Export Trading Company’s recent report, Africa produces 95 per cent of high value cashew, with approximately two million African smallholders from Tanzania, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast and Nigeria being responsible for 48 per cent of the world’s total output, estimated at 1,400,000 metric tonnes in 2014.
As officially declared by the State Bureau of Statistics, the 2010 Community Development Statistics Survey emphasised that six local government areas of Ondo State produce cashew as major market product, and have the capacity for export trade.
In the north district, Owo local government has 423 communities that produce cashew in export capacity; Akoko North East has nine communities and Akoko North West-42 communities, all doing fairly well in cashew production.
In the South, only Odigbo local government has it as a major market product at over 85 per cent in its 302 communities, while Akure North local government with 146 communities has export capacity.
The Chairman of Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association, OSACA, Mr. Akinola Olotu affirmed that “the economic importance of cashew is tremendous, most especially in third-world countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, India, Brazil, Nigeria and Tanzania, among others.”
While listing its importance, he said “cashew cultivation is equally good in terms of environmental factor; cashew trees also help in creating mini forest-like atmosphere, reduces erosion and provide wood-lots for domestic use.
“It is a source of food, income, industrial raw materials and a foreign exchange earner. As at 2015, the trading export worth of the crop is said to be $160million.” He said the farther the country is away from agriculture, the deeper it will plunge into insecurity.
According to him, commercial production in Nigeria dates back to over half a century, noting that mention must be made of the great effort made by the Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s administration in the defunct Western Region to promote the cashew cultivation, which led to the establishment of the plantation in some locations of the region.
However, he stated that in recent years, exotic varieties were brought to the country from Brazil in particular, disclosing that the Brazilian type has bigger nut and commands higher price in the international market.
“Nevertheless, we have some local breeds that are doing well in Nigeria in terms of yield and quality. Cocoa Research Institute, Ibadan has done a lot in this regard,” he said.
The OSACA chairman posited that in the face of the dwindling revenue occasioned by the poor fossil fuel price, coupled with low production level, cashew production and processing is a way out of the economic predicament.