NIGERIA’S federal government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance cashew production under an ambitious plan to diversify the nation’s economy.
One of the world’s largest cashew producers, Nigeria has a crop of about 260,000 tonnes but she is still lagging way behind other African origins such as Ivory Coast that produces 792,678 tonnes. In addition, Nigeria adds no value to her cashews, exporting them raw to countries like India and Vietnam where they are processed, generating huge mark-ups for the processors.
Like most other sectors of agriculture, Nigeria has neglected cashew production because the government is solely focused on crude oil which accounts for about 95% of its income. I what should be a move to turn this around, Nigeria has agreed am MoU with the USDA’s West Africa PRO-Cashew Project, designed to dramatically boost output.
Theodore Ogaziechi, the director of information at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that agriculture minister Mohammed Nanono signed the MoU on behalf of Nigeria. He added that the initiative will improve productivity, expand Nigeria’s national cashew hectarage and contribute towards achieving national food and nutrition security, revenue generation, exchange earnings, wealth creation and employment.
Mr Nanono stated that the government’s focus is to continuously and sustainably developing the commodity for export, emphasising the need for the USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew Project and other stakeholders to achieve objectives of the MoU. He added that this would help the country formulate the right programmes, guide future interventions and woo investors to grow the value chain.
According to the minister, since the 1990s, cashew has increased Nigeria’s gross domestic product, as it ranked as the second non-oil export foreign exchange earner for the country, generating about $500m in 2018. It also provided a livelihood for about 300,000 to 500,000 families mostly youths and women in Nigeria.
Ojo Ajanaku, the president of National Cashew Association of Nigeria, said: “Currently the national production capacity of cashew in 2020 was 260,000 tonnes on 100,000 hectares of land. This initiative would help the ministry achieve the targeted increased production capacity from 260,000 tonnes in 2020 to 350,000 tonnes by 2023 and the processing capacity from 15% in 2020 to 35% by 2023.”
As part of this drive, the minister has constituted a Cashew Value Chain Working Committee to look into the problems and challenges affecting the growth of the sector. He explained that the essence of the committee, is basically to support USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew Project to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the Nigeria cashew project.