Nigeria behind other African countries in Cashew production
Government’s Neglect Responsible For State Of The Sector
One area that Udi and Ezeagu local government areas of Enugu State excelled before now was in the cultivation and production of cashew nuts and fruits.
Cashew production in these areas became so popular that the then Anambra State government established the Premier Cashew Industry in Oghe, Ezeagu council.
Apart from the two local governments, areas like Nsukka, Udenu and parts of Oji River also produced cashew in large quantity. Sources said it became one of the revenue yielding sources of the state as it was exported to other states, as well as consumed locally.
All these have presently given way, despite the existence of huge cashew plantations in the state. The Premier Cashew industry, the outfit that processed the products for sale went moribund few years after the creation of the state and has remained so till date.
It was gathered that bad management, struggle for power and positions among the workers and alleged government’s neglect due to the discovery of oil as a major source of revenue to the state from the Federal Government contributed to the ugly state of the industry. The outcome of the factors was the collapse of the industry, even as men of the underworld made away with some facilities at the place.
While some of the areas serving as cashew plantation before now are being encroached upon and turned into other uses, residents still on their own harvest the products for sale and other domestic use.
It is a common sight while travelling in most communities in the state to see ripened and decomposing cashew fruits litter here and there, while those brought for sale are hardly sold at reasonable prices.
In an interview with The Guardian, the state commissioner for agriculture, Mike Eneh blamed the development on bad government policies. He stated that the state had no reason to be poor or complain about lack of funds should the agricultural potentials be properly harnessed.
He stated however, that with the economic downturn state governments are now looking into agriculture as alternative to boost their revenues.
He said, “Enugu State is not left out in this quest because, we have no choice than to look inwards and showcase what we have to enable us earn revenue to develop other sources. We are investing heavily on every segment of agriculture – poultry, piggery, Pineapple, Cassava, rice, cocoyam, plantain production, bees and honey and what have you. We are looking at it as a value chain because we have arable land for all these”.
Enugu State according to him is the home of cashew and produces one of the best cashews of export value.
He said government has moribund cashew plantations at different locations in the state, covering over 2000 hectares of land.
“New cashew plantations covering over 600,000 hectares are also being proposed for investments in six local governments, in partnership with the World Bank Commercial Agriculture Development Project. Prospective investors are therefore invited to take advantage of these potentials available in the state,” he said.
He added; “While reviving other areas of agriculture, the state government is interested in cashew production because we remain number one in that area.
“The state government approved a new agricultural policy framework to encourage and attract foreign investments. The vision of the policy is to transform the sector into an industrialised sector that drives income growth, accelerate food and nutrition security, generate employment and transform state into a leading player in global food market to grow wealth for its farmers.”
A lecturer in the department of agriculture, Dr. Aham Okonkwo said from what he has observed, it was possible that government was desirous in agriculture.
He however, faulted the framework as not “only too elitist” but also difficult to attain. “Now we are talking about cashew; do you need to go far to see that what we require is processing? Why would government not make friendly policies that would enable the youths engage in the production of cashew? You don’t need to ask them to continue to pay for hiring services, when indeed you could train them and empower them with the agricultural facilities. So I find it funny.
“Again, the style of governance we have adopted is such that private people should come and own land and develop into agriculture without further assistance from government, it does not show seriousness as far as I’m concerned. Let there be a leaf from government for people to borrow from,” he added.