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Cashew: Untapped treasure in South East



Cashew is one cash crop that is craved globally by only people who know it’s worth. It is rich as food but more importantly, highly rewarding as subject of a business venture. Experts reason that conscious attention on cashew economy can redeem the ebbing agricultural economy of the South East of Nigeria. ODOGWU EMEKA ODOGWU, who toured some sections of South East in the course of this report writes.

CASH crop is an agricultural crop grown to sell for profit. Coffee, cocoa, tea, sugarcane, cotton, and spices are some examples of cash crops. Some food crops, rice, wheat and corn are also grown as cash crops to meet global food demand.


  The emphasis today is on cashew nut. Cashew nut is a high value cash crop and most cashew trees start bearing fruit in the third or fourth year. It is also raw material of multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides, and biomaterials as well as in tropical folk medicine and for anti-termite treatment of timber.

  Cashew tree is like every other tropical evergreen tree. Cashew tree produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. There are dwarf cashew trees and giant cashew trees though it can grow as high as 14 m.

  According to, the scientific name for cashew is Anacardium occidentale. It reports that cashews contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients, including fat but its fat is ‘good fat’ believed to help in preventing heart diseases and reduces the risk of stroke.

  In city malls, there are different types of cashew nuts including ones fresh and original, roasted and salted, dried, fried, laced with honey, hot and spice and whole lots. It is recommended that a healthy daily intake of nuts is 30g (a small handful) or approximately 15 cashew nuts.

  Are there implications with the nuts? Yes! Research has it that the raw cashews contain urushiol, a resin that is toxic if ingested and can cause rashes or burns if it contacts the skin.

  Have you seen a cashew tree before? What of the apples and the nuts? It has a buttery, sweet, salty taste, and an unmistakable shape. Cashews are one of the lowest fibre and highest carbohydrate nuts, but an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

  In cashews, you can find vitamins E, K, and B-6, and minerals like copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium. These minerals and vitamins are so important for a variety of bodily functions.  The more nuts you eat, the lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, as it reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


  International organizations like the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization abbreviated small and medium-sized enterprises or businesses to SMEs. They are businesses with small personnel, very manageable.

  These companies outnumber big firms an assist in employing vast numbers of people out of the labour market. They are entrepreneurial in nature, helps in shaping innovation in countries. Every country has its benchmark, but generally micro companies with up to 10 employees are in this threshold, to those small companies with 50 workers as well as medium companies with 250 and 500 workers.

  SMEs are the heartbeat of emerging and developed economies, responsible for providing many jobs even contributing high percentage like 45% to total employment and  33% the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

  SMEs has some other names in other climes like United States refer to them as small-to-mid-size businesses (SMBs), while in Kenya, it goes by MSME, meaning micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and India calls it MSMED, which stands for micro, small, and medium enterprise development.

  In Nigeria, it is called SMEs. Nigeria is one of the largest economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa with crude oil as its major reliance, though other sectors contribute. Nigeria hosts  large small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

  Research shows that the Central Bank of Nigeria had defined SMEs as enterprises which have an annual turnover not exceeding N500,000, whereas, the National Policy on Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) focused on employment and assets. In the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) in Nigeria, SMEs register under Part B of the CAMA for a business name.

  The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN came into existence to stimulate, monitor and coordinate the development of the MSMEs sub-sector. SMEDAN initiate and articulate policy ideas for small and medium enterprises growth and development as well as promote and facilitate development programmes, instruments and support services to accelerate the development and modernisation of MSME operations. This, if well done, leads to economic growth, industrialisation and job creation

  SMEDAN appears powering even as it has entered into partnership with Facebook and Google towards providing quality digital skills training for MSMEs in Nigeria in line with global practice in linking and bridging the communication gaps between MSMEs and the global market place.

  The director general and chief executive officer of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda in an interview with Daily Trust had said that the training programme was a topmost priority of the agency considering the importance of information and communication technology (ICT) to the development of MSMEs worldwide, adding that Nigeria cannot be an exception.

  Dr Radda said: “we have witnessed how small businesses are making their impact felt in the social media using Facebook, instagram and even twitter, they make huge sales, this training will further build their capacity in making more inroads into the market”

Cashew history and development in Nigeria

  Recall that cashew was introduced in Nigeria more than 400 years ago, but extensive cultivation started in the 1950s. As strange as it sounds, the first Nigerian cashew plantation dates back to 1954 with 800 hectares in the present Enugu State and 200 hectares in the western part of the country.

  But From 1965 to 1990, cashew production was relatively static at 25,000 tonnes with estimated land area of 50,000 hectares in 1990. Despite the initial problems, cashew cultivation has spread to 27 states of the country, and in the past 12 years, production increased almost thirty-fold from 30,000mt to 836,500 tonnes from estimated land area of 366,000 hectares in 2012.

Remember that commodity market was liberalised in 1986, and many companies ventured into cashew processing. The question is, has Nigeria recognised the potential economic value of cashew and was there any effort to improve the production of the crop?

  Foraminifera Market Research reports that the history of cashew in Nigeria dates back to the 15th century, as it was mainly used in afforestation schemes for the control of erosion in former Eastern Nigeria.

  The commercial cashew plantations started in Nigeria in the early 1950s with the establishment of the first commercial plantations at Oghe, Oji and Mbala by the defunct Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) and Iwo, Eruwa and Upper Ogun by the defunct Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC). Edo State produces cashew too and even Gwanara District in Baruten Local Government Area of kwara State.

  From these locations, the planting of the crop started spreading to other parts of Nigeria particularly to the Central and Northern States of Nigeria.

  Research on its production and its uses started at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, in 1971.

  The introduction of Brazilian cashew biotype with improved and desirable nut and kernel quality characteristics by CRIN has further increased the crops spread and popularity in Nigeria.

  The commodity of commercial importance is the nut, which contains 47 per cent fat, 21 per cent protein and 22 per cent carbohydrate.

It also contains vitamins, especially thiamine. Its proteins are complete, having all the essential amino acids and a kilogramme of the nut yields about 6000 calories compared to 3600 calories from cereals, 1800 calories from meat and 650 calories from fresh citrus fruit.

Consumption of cashew and its nuts can greatly help in weight management, prevention of gall stones, bone development and prevention of bone diseases, reduction of heart diseases, and numerous health benefits.

Variety of products from cashew

  Cashew apple and cashew nut is produced from cashew tree and has the botanical name of Anacardium occidentale.

  It takes a cashew plant about two-three years to grow from seed, with the tree first developing a drupe, it later develops into a cashew apple from the small stalk bearing the drupe.

  The fruit, which is the cashew apple also bears a single seed known as the cashew nut. Unlike the cashew fruit which can be eaten when plucked, the nut can’t be eaten unless after being roasted, it contains a toxin which can only be destroyed by smoke or fire.

  It’s a seasonal fruits in Nigeria and in other areas of cultivation, and a succulent one, though it is highly perishable. It is highly sought after in the Nigerian market. Its fleshy pulp and nuts can be eaten and it’s very nutritional as it is  a good source of protein and contains also selenium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and vitamin B6.

 Cashew can either be eaten as a fruit or processed into cashew butter and cheese and the cashew pulp can be distilled into liquor or even processed into fruit drink. The same way, cashew shell can be used in a wide range of applications such as in paints and lubricants.

RMRDC and money in cashew nut value chain?

  In April 2018, the Director General, Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof Ibrahim Hussaini Doko had an answer in the affirmative as he said that farmers, processors can make more money in cashew value chain.

  He concurs that RMRDC is strengthening the cashew value chain as a valuable source of industrial raw materials to the Nigerian agro-economy.

  Doko informed that the federal government initiated a Cashew Development Programme under the Tree Crop Development Programme. The programme was initiated in 2001 to rehabilitate and resuscitate moribund plantations, train extension staff and farmers, provide and distribute inputs such as seedlings, agro-chemicals, etc.

Other objectives of the programme were to promote quality control at primary (farm) level and the strengthening of management information system in the cashew sector. Despite this, however, products of cashew tree (kernel and apple) are grossly under utilised for income generation.

There is still a lot of wastages of the fresh apples on farms since a negligible portion is consumed by harvesters. Also, Nigeria produces a limited variety of cashew, consisting mainly of the yellow and red varieties. However, high yielding cashew varieties with low gestation period and bigger nuts have been introduced.

Research into cashew nuts and fruits for juice

  Doko said that the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) has the mandate to research into cashew development and that it has developed an improved variety of cashew called Brazilian Jumbo, with nuts maturing within one year in contrast to the local wild varieties which mature after five years.

Currently in Nigeria, the major factors limiting cashew nut production are old age of most trees, deforestation, low yielding varieties, dominance of small holdings, dependence of most farmers on wild varieties, land acquisition problems, high cost of inputs, climatic conditions, disease, pest and fire outbreaks, high post-harvest losses, infrastructural constraints, as well as quality and market price of the product.

Constraints of cashew nut production

  The major constraints of cashew nut production are marketing and processing of cashew fruits. Producers have called on the government to arrest increasing transportation of the nuts into neighbouring countries, such as Togo, Benin and Cameroon, from where they are exported to Europe and the United States (U.S).

Prices of cashew nuts in international market impact significantly on its productivity. Good market prices are strong incentives for farmers, but when prices are low, farmers are weary of investing in any input since they cannot judge the return they might expect to receive for the crop at the end of the growing season.

  The activity of middlemen, which reduces the amount that gets to farmers, also reduces profitability of farmers. In the Nigerian market, uncertainty is a very serious problem which can seriously limit cashew production and marketing as cashew farmers are left at the mercy of the middlemen, whose activities usually make prices to be low and damaging.

How can Nigeria promote the cashew value chain?

  One of the major ways of promoting development of the nation’s cashew output is through value addition. Cashew nuts are basic raw materials in the production of cashew nut butter. Further value addition to the kernels is possible by roasting and salting or sugar coating the nuts.

 It is estimated that 60 per cent of cashew kernels are consumed in the form of snacks while the remaining 40 per cent is used in the confectionery industry. Presently, only six per cent cashew apples produced is exported as producers have only market for the nuts. The problem is heightened as the use of whole fruit is commercially difficult as the apple ripens prior to the nut.

The quality of the nut detached from the green fruit is unacceptable for processing as cashew apples must be produced within two to three hours of picking as they undergo rapid deterioration when kept for a long time. This perishable nature also negatively influences development of processing options for cashew fruits.

Value chain of cashew as raw material and production

  The RMRDC has initiated, maintained and sustained a cashew development programme aimed at developing the value chain locally. Some of the industrial potentials of cashew, which are being exploited by the council are Cashew Nut Shell Liquid, juice and roasted cashew nut.

Cashew nut shell contains inedible Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL), which consists of 15 per cent of the gross weight while the nut contains Cashew Nut Kernel Oil (CNKO), which is sweet edible oil. The pressed kernel cake from CNKO extraction process is suitable for use in human and animal feeds.

The CNSL contains high proportions of phenolic compounds, which are used in industries as raw materials for making vehicle brake lining compounds, water proofing agents, preservatives, manufacture of paints and plastics; type-writer rollers, oil and acid-proof cements and for making industrial floor tiles, etc.

Intervention by RMRDC and benefitting companies

  In order to promote the sustainable supply of cashew to the processing plants, the council distributed 7,000 seedlings of improved cashew variety (Jumbo Cashew) to farms across the country during the 2015-2016 planting seasons.

  The project was handled by Abod Success Investment Limited. Some of the beneficiaries include: Alheri Agricultural Vine International Limited, Kaduna; Plant A Tree Today Initiative (PATTIN), Cadastral Zone, Apo, Abuja; African Foundation for Agricultural Development, Gudu District, Abuja; Christian Care for Widows, Widowers, the Aged and Orphans, Gwarinpa, Abuja;

Danejo Farms Nigeria Limited, Babban Tunga, Niger State; National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Ilorin, Kwara State and Kogi State University, Anyigba, Kogi State and a host of others. The council, in collaboration with the Kogi State University, Anyigba, established a one tonne/day cashew nut processing plant for investment purposes.

History of processing plant in Nigeria

  The cashew processing plant was fabricated and installed by a private consultant, Abod Success Investment Limited. The project was commissioned on October 14, 2010 and has since been producing cashew nuts on commercial basis. Likewise, the council collaborated with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) to upgrade the cashew nut processing facility in the university.

One tonne/day cashew nut processing plant was fabricated and installed by the council’s cashew consultant, Abod Success Investment Limited at the university. After a successful test-run and training of workers, the facility was commissioned on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. The plant has since commenced commercial production of cashew nuts.

The council has also collaborated with Isowopo Cashew Farmers and Sellers Association for the establishment of one tonne/day cashew nut processing plant at Ikakumo, Ondo State. Furthermore, the council commissioned Abod Success Investment Limited to design, fabricate and install one tonne/day cashew nut processing plant at WEHSAC Farms Limited, Oke-Ogun, Oyo State.

 The council also commissioned Abod success Investment Limited to design, fabricate and install CNSL extraction plants at the Kogi State University, Anyigba and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. The extraction plants have been installed.

To promote further value addition, Abod success was commissioned to design and fabricate cashew juice processing plants for the council. The plants would be deployed to the universities in Anyigba and Abeokuta for investment purposes.

RMRDC and alliance with international association

  The council is collaborating with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), which is an international association of African and international businessmen with interest in promoting globally competitive African cashew industry.

Presently, nearly 130 member countries work under the ACA banner and represent all aspects of cashew value chain, including producers, processors, traders and international buyers. In 2017, we initiated collaboration with the Vietnam Institute of Agricultural Sciences for Southern Vietnam for transfer of technology on the grafting of cashew trees.

The technology had been perfected and widely deployed in Vietnam. This has made Vietnam one of the competitive cashew producers globally. The major advantage of the technology is the possibility of grafting old trees for increased production and productivity without any need to cut them down.

This initiative, if perfected locally as planned, will obviate the need to cut down old cashew trees locally, while at the same time increasing their productivity. As the old age of cashew is a major limiting factor influencing yield locally, the deployment of this technology will increase cashew production by more than 25 per cent on annual basis.

Cashew glut and Nigeria Cashew Farmers loss of N99 Billion

  Cashew nut farmers in the country lost approximately N99 billion since the commencement of production this year.

The farmers produce about 220,000 metric tonnes of cashew nuts yearly. In 2017 and 2018, a tonne was bought from them at the rate of N600,000. This year however, the cost plummeted to N150,000 per tonne. The figure implies that they lose N450,000 on every tonne sold. Multiplied by 220,000 metric tonnes, the farmers are set back by a staggering N90 billion.

  The downward slope of the price curve will have negative impact on investments in cashew cultivation and plantations. Thousands of jobs might be lost, besides the dire financial implications for the farmers and the country.

The socio-economic implications include increased poverty among farmers until the price appreciates; low return on investments for plantation investors; job losses in the value chains (from cultivation, aggregation, export and processing).

  Investigation from media reports revealed that gridlocks in Apapa prevent containers of raw materials, including agricultural products, from leaving the port for various destinations in Europe, Asia and America, contributing significantly to low demand for the nuts.

Two major ways the gridlocks affect products are: deterioration through re-absorption of moisture and inability of exporters to meet deadlines.

  “One of the major reasons is that the road leading to our port is bad. The trailers take several weeks before they can get to the port. Most of exporters take short-term loans from the bank and are not able to meet up with either supply or repayment of loans,” said Dr Akin Oloniruha, a cashew breeding and plantation specialist at the Ahmadu Bello University College of Agriculture, Kabba, Kogi State.

  “Last year, a tonne was N600,000. This year, it is about N130,000. This has a negative effect on farm expansion and tonnage to be produced in the future because many farmers would not plant cashew this year,” he explained. Stating another reason for the low demand and poor pricing, Oloniruha said farmers, either as a result of greed or lack of regulations, mix immature nuts with good ones, creating aversion for Nigeria’s stock in the international market.

  The solution, he said, is for Nigeria to develop the capacity to process nuts locally. According to news reports in Nigerian media quoting him, “This will reduce our exportation of raw materials and exposure of farmers to price fluctuations. “A major cashew nut aggregator in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Mr. Isaac Alade, affirmed that the price per tonne of the nuts is between N130,000 and N150,000.

  Some analysts however noted that the downturn could also be blamed on shrinking global demands and inability of exporters to meet up with orders from Vietnam, a major buyer of Nigerian nuts, and other countries.

It was reported that an expatriate director in one of the agro-allied conglomerates in Nigeria, who preferred anonymity, explained that processors in India and Vietnam who import cashew nuts from Africa were not given loans this year because they have not been able to offset the facilities for 2018.

  “They have not repaid the loans they collected last year to the banks. So, the Vietnam banks are not giving additional loans to the importers who buy from Nigeria. Now that processors from especially Vietnam are not purchasing nuts from Africa, there is a big gap. That is the main cause,” he said.

  Corroborating this point, a cashew nuts processor and managing director of Abod Success Ltd, based at Ogijo, Ikorodu, Lagos State, Mr. Tunde Odunuga, said over 90 per cent of Vietnam buyers could not buy from Africa this year because of their indebtedness to banks.

Death for cashew nuts

  February last year, a 17 year old Ugochukwu Oduburu, a student of GTC Akama in Ezeagu Local Government Area, was shot and killed by a security man over alleged cashew nut theft. Ugochukwu had allegedly gone to pick

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. kelvin

    December 5, 2020 at 11:40 pm


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