By Dipo Olowookere
Nigerian cashew producers are working on a four-year plan to cultivate more land and boost exports more than threefold to 500,000 metric tons a year to feed a growing export market.
With about 160,000 hectares (395,000 acres) of land producing about 150,000 tons a year, farmers are seeking to bring an additional 340,000 hectares into cultivation to achieve industry targets, Tola Fasheru, president of the Nigerian Cashew Association, which groups farmers and traders, said in a January 12 interview in Lagos.
That should raise annual export income from the product to at least $650 million from the $253 million earned in 2015, he said.
Nigeria exports more than 80 percent of its cashew output, mostly as raw kernels, with about 60 percent of last year’s shipments going to Vietnam, according to the cashew association.
“Virtually all the states in the country have the potential to grow cashew,” Fasheru said. “Our sights are even beyond the 2020 target” as they seek to make cashew one of the country’s biggest exports, he said.
Cashew is among 13 products identified by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government under its national strategic plan to expand agricultural export income and end economic woes that made 2016 likely the first year of growth contraction since 1991 following the collapse of the price of oil, the country’s main export.
Nigeria is Africa’s sixth-biggest producer, ranked behind Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mozambique, according to the association. An output of 500,000 tons would make Nigeria Africa’s second-biggest producer.
Global demand for cashew nuts has surged 53 percent since 2010, outstripping production in at least four of the past seven years, according to the Reus, Spain-based International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.
India is the leading producer with 1.73 million tons of kernels in the 2015-16 season, followed by Ivory Coast with 1.7 million tons and Vietnam with 1.1 million tons as global production rose 3 percent from previous season to 7.4 million tons, according to the council.
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