Fri Nov 18, 2016 | 5:30pm EST
Ivory Coast, the world's leading producer of cashew nuts, has added bonus payments to existing tax breaks to drive a rapid expansion in local processing of the crop, company and government officials said on Friday.
Already the world's top cocoa grower, Ivory Coast more than doubled its cashew output from 350,000 tonnes in 2009 to over 702,000 tonnes last year when it surpassed India in terms of raw production.
Earlier this month President Alassane Ouattara signed a new constitution into law, casting it as the way to a peaceful future after years of violent upheaval and renewing its attraction to foreign investors.
Locally processed nuts are already exempt from export tax and tax holidays have been brought in over the past five years for private investors.
Until recently, only a fraction of nuts were processed before export. But Ouattara has called for 100 percent of production to be processed domestically by 2020.
"The government is working on that, and we are the tool of the government," Adama Coulibaly, the head of the Ivorian cotton and cashew marketing board, the CCA, told Reuters on the sidelines of a trade show in the commercial capital Abidjan.
In 2014, national processing capacity for cashew nuts was around 42,000 tonnes but has already more than doubled to 90,900 tonnes this year. Coulibaly said it is on track for 214,500 tonnes in 2017.
From this season, companies will also receive a government bonus payment of 400 CFA francs ($0.65) for every kilogram of processed cashews they export. The measure is due to last five seasons with the possibility of a two-year extension, Coulibaly said.
The combination of these incentives now make Ivory Coast competitive with major processing hubs India and Vietnam where costs are lower, said Suraj Rao, vice-president of the Ivorian cashew exporters association.
"When there is political will, corporate will follow. If the government is ready to support us, we are ready to invest," said Rao, who is also country director for Export Trading Group (ETG).
ETG plans to open two or three processing plants, each with capacity of around 10,000 tonnes, in different parts of Ivory Coast.
The sheer size of its cashew crop, which continues to grow at around 10 percent annually, and its location make Ivory Coast a logical hub for exports to expanding markets in Europe and North America, exporters said.
"There is no other place with this abundance of raw material," said Partheeban Theodore, Ivory Coast country manager for Olam International which runs facilities with processing capacity of 40,000 tonnes.
"We definitely find it more attractive to expand our processing, and I am sure it will encourage others."
(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)