Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) was introduced to Nigeria by Portuguese explorers but became popular in 1953 when it was planted by the defunct Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation.
The first planting was in Agege, Lagos state while the first commercial planting of the tree was in the 1950s at the Western part of Nigeria. Cashew was there after introduced to other parts of Nigeria.
Later on, the Brazilian jumbo nut cashew variety was introduced. Due to it’s worldwide acceptability, farmers in Nigeria took great delight in planting this type of cashew.
The economic importance of cashew cannot be over emphasized. A lot of farmers have diverted to cashew planting for nut production.
This is because the cashew nut is the part of the cashew tree with the greatest economic importance coupled with the fact that it is always in high demand.
Cashew farming has provided jobs for hundreds of thousands of Nigerians. In this part of the world, cashew nut is regarded as a very valuable commodity.
It is also a means of generating foreign exchange for the country and also another avenue for revenue rather than the country’s fixation on crude oil. Nigeria is the fourth highest producer of cashew nut in Africa behind the likes of Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Most of Nigeria’s export quality cashew nuts are shipped to India, Vietnam, China and some other Asian countries. The cashew industry in Nigeria is a multi-million dollar industry.
It has witnessed steady growth since the beginning of the new millennium. The cashew industry in Nigeria is structured in a way that the local producers sell to the middle men who in turn sell to the exporters who ship it outside the country.
Most of the people who had ventured into the cashew trade have recorded significant profits. This has led to the proliferation of the cashew industry by Nigerians who are seeking to make the cashew business a means of livelihood.
Another reason for the proliferation of the industry is the liberalization policy of the government. This has given the local sellers and exporters the free hand to practice the trade without government’s interference.
Prices in Nigeria are also one of the cheapest, this is another reason why Indians and Vietnamese investors are always in the country during every cashew trade season.
This is to enable them strike reasonable deals with the local marketers and producers. Despite the proliferation, the industry has accommodated every member, with the majority smiling home with their profits.
Even with the massive profits made through the sales of cashew nuts in Nigeria, the cashew industry is faced with some problems which has hindered the industry from being the top producer of export quality cashew nuts both in Africa and the world at large, despite the vast and abundant land in the country.
In this article, I will be pointing out some of this problems, as I believe it will be useful to those of you who are intent on venturing into the cashew trade. Below are some of the problems:
1. Low quality nuts
Due to the fact that most farmers and plantation owners in Nigeria are uneducated, they are unable to reach out to the agric research institutes in the country for higher quality planting seeds.
This is the reason why a high amount of cashew nuts produced in the country are medium sized. This medium size cashew nuts such as the 1988 W280 and W320 seeds which are unimproved and low quality. These are the types mostly planted by most of the uneducated farmers in Nigeria.
Only a few local farmers contacted the Cashew Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) for the improved Brazilian jumbo nuts which are of a higher quality and also attracts a higher price in the international market.
2. Poor funding of research activities
The Nigerian government have not prioritized the funding of cashew research activities. Most times, funds are not released for research activities and on occasions when it is released, it is usually not enough compared to the volume of work needed to be done.
This has also affected the expansion of the cashew industry in Nigeria as adequate research will help find ways to develop improved varieties of cashew that will suit the climatic conditions in Nigeria.
A good research would also help develop ways to prevent and treat disease that affects cashew production in Nigeria.
3. Lack of awareness
A lot of Nigerians are still unaware of the enormous economic benefits inherent in cashew nut trading. The international demand for cashew nut is always on the increase every year, this is why cashew nut is a valuable economic commodity that will never stop generating income for those who are involved in the business.
Considering the enormous land and population Nigeria is blessed with, it is safe to say that a lot of Nigerians are still unaware of the great economic benefits that can be derived in the cashew trade.
4. Pest and diseases
Cashew just like other crops are affected by pests and diseases which hinders productivity. Some of this pests are so deadly that they can render a whole plantation fruitless.
Pests and diseases of cashew have constantly increased in the last two decades. Over 200 pests of cashew have been identified so far.
This is another reason why Nigeria have not been able to lead the pack in the production of cashew. Most of our farmers are uneducated and unable to properly handle the devastating effects of these pests.
5. Thieves and criminals
Since cashew nut became a product of high international demand, the importance of the commodity also skyrocketed.
Most of the large cashew plantations in the country are situated in the bush and highly susceptible to thieves. We have heard of many cases where farmers had raised alarm as regards the unauthorized harvest of their nuts by unknown persons. Also, there have been reported cases of stealing in warehouses.
6. Bush burning
Cashew nuts harvest is usually during the dry season when bush burning is very common in all parts of Nigeria. Since most of the cashew plantations are situated at areas prone to bush burning, some of the plantations ready for harvest are sometimes ravaged by fire.
This trend causes great loss to farmers every year, it also reduces drastically the amount of export quality nuts produced in the country.
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