The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), specifically the USDA-West Africa PRO-Cashew Project. The agreement is to develop a strategic plan for the Nigerian cashew industry spanning over the next ten years.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the project will advance the national hectarage of the cashew crop, improve productivity, increase food security, and improve revenue generation. It is targeted at boosting the production capacity of cashew from 260,000 metric tonnes in 2020 to 350,000 metric tonnes by 2023. In addition, the target is also to increase the processing capacity from 15% in 2020 to 35% within the same time frame.
Currently, cashew is ranked as the second non-oil export foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. It generated about $500 million for the country in 2018. The expected impact of the project include: $103.7 million in annual sales of farmers and firms, $3.7 million accessed in agricultural-related financing from USDA assistance and 728,516 individuals benefitting.
According to the National General Secretary, National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Sotonye Anga, who spoke to MSMEsToday on the collaboration with USDA for the PRO – Cashew Project, said, ‘We are happy. Over 300,000 – 500, 000 families that depend on cashew in Nigeria embrace this project. We want to see it fully implemented and actualized. We are the major stakeholders in this project’.
Providing more insight on the cashew sector, Sotonye Anga, said the biggest challenge facing the sector is low yield. National average today is between 400 – 500kg per hectare, which is of course low. The target is to reach 1.2 tonnes/ 1200kg per hectare. He attributed the low yield to local variety of planting materials however, he noted that a few farms with hybrids planting materials are currently enjoying high yield and performance per hectare.
According to Anga, 95% of farmers across Nigeria live on low yield of 400 – 500 kg per hectare across the cashew belt, the 24 cashew growing states in Nigeria namely – Abia, Akwa -Ibom, Benue, Delta, Enugu, Edo, Kogi; Kaduna, Nassarawa, Oyo, Ondo, Taraba, Abuja, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi. Others are Ekiti, Imo, Kwara, Kebbi, Niger, Ogun and Osun.
Anga expressed optimism in the success of the Pro – Cashew Project citing the improvement that has been recorded before now. ‘Between 2010 and 2020 production has moved from 90,000 mt to 260,000 mt and the desire and plan is to move to 350, 000mt in the next 10 years. Processing is doing about 10% of our national total production output, that is, about 26,000mt annually. However, the focus is to achieve an increase from 10- 30% at least in the next 10 years’.
He stated that to achieve the above projections in production and processing would require strong collaboration and support in grants and loans from the government. This way the cashew sector will actualize its job creation potential and not just that, we will be able to produce not just cashew nuts, but also cashew apple chips, cashew nut liquid and create bio-mass among other products. According to him, with value added products we can create revenue ten times more for the sector through exporting no less than six different products. This will bring more prosperity, jobs and reduce unemployment and restiveness across the country.
Even though the cashew market in Nigeria is estimated in the region of $500m, yet, farmers in the sector have not been able to actualize the full potentials of their business with regard to revenue and financial benefits. Stakeholders believe that it is possible that the Pro – Cashew Project will help to deliver this expectation.