Ivory Coast cashes in on the cashew

Famous for its cocoa and coffee, the Ivory Coast has drawn up an ambitious five-year plan for the cashew industry, seeking to modernise production in a sector where it is already the world’s number-one exporter.

READ MORE: Mozambique cracks open its cashews to boost the economy

“We have shown that we know how to produce the nuts —now we have to demonstrate that we can sell them and above all process them,” Adama Coulibaly of the national Cotton-Cashew Council told AFP.

From tiny harvests two decades ago, the West African country now holds the cashew crown, supplanting India as the biggest producer of the nut.

Helped by price guarantees for farmers, its harvest doubled from 380,000 tonnes in 2013 to 711,000 tonnes in 2017, amounting to 22 percent of global output. This year’s production of the nut — known locally as “grey gold” —is expected to attain 750,000 tonnes.

Curvy, rich in taste and filled with protein, the cashew is a familiar ingredient in salads, stir-fries and other meals.

But it also features in a widening range of other food products, including cashew butter and cheese, and its oil has found uses in medicine, industrial resins and cosmetics.

$200m boost

Ivory Coast has a problem, though: the processing side of its cashew sector is puny — it is currently equipped to handle only six percent of production.

This is a classic dilemma for African countries, struggling to get out of the rut of dependence on primary sourcing.

“It’s in food processing that the real added value lies… which can generate employment. Ivory Coast cannot allow itself to be merely an exporter of raw materials,” Coulibaly told AFP.


In March, the World Bank announced funding of $1-billion (866 million euros) for development purposes in Ivory Coast, including $200-million set aside to support programmes to modernise the cashew sector.

Coulibaly hopes that with finance on this scale, the country might in the coming five years attain “a 50 percent rate of product transformation and 80 percent within the next 10 years.”

At present, the sector includes 250,000 producers grouped into a score of cooperatives and employs some 1.5 million people, directly or indirectly.

The government plans to build agro-industrial zones at four population centres — Bouake in the centre, Korhogo in the north, Bondoukou in the east and Seguela in the northwest.

Economist Yves Ouya said the poverty-mired north and centre of the country had to be beneficiaries of the boom.

“This is extremely important for the government in its fight against endemic poverty in these zones,” he said.

‘A working business’

The cashew’s extraordinary success sometimes leads to speculation ― by traders who buy nuts below the floor price fixed by the state and hope to sell it on at a profit ― and to smuggling to neighbouring countries.

According to official estimates, between 20,000 and 50,000 tonnes of production is diverted this way each year. The authorities recently responded by ramping up the legal arsenal to deal with such offences, which also affect the cocoa industry.

Kouadio Djedri, a planter in his 60s at N’Zere village near the capital Yamoussoukro, likes to talk about how profitable the cashew business can be.

“I started out growing cashew nuts 20 years ago, when the product sold for 50 CFA francs (0.07 euros/$0.08) per kilo,” the farmer, wearing a cowboy hat and green boots, said.

“From a harvest of 200 kilos — two bags — in my early days, this year I’ve grown 13 tonnes for sale at 500 CFA francs per kilo,” he said.

Djedri, who is also village chief, has a cashew plantation of 11 hectares (27 acres) and plans to expand over a further 13 hectares.

“I tell young people to go into growing cashew nuts. It’s a working business that has enabled me to send my children to school,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Christophe Koffi
Christophe Koffi
Social and environmental scientist, focused on forest, food security and climate change adaptation.
Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations