Cashew in its employment and commercial value to the nation has been under utilised as being reported by, SAM EGWU in the piece, a gold mine not fully tapped, looks at the possible ways to put cashew into proper value chain
Cashew nut harvest season has come again and some cashew farmers in Kogi State said they are happy with the rate at which cashew nut is selling at the international market, as their lives had become better since more emphasis has been put on the value of the nut. Agriculture has been one of the main source of income the nation has relied on before the sudden advent of oil in the late 80s. For all intent and purpose, diversification of the economy is the only solution to the clamouring for monoculture which, has time limit. Before the advent of oil, Nigeria depended on agriculture separated to cotton, groundnut, hide and skin, palm oil, cocoa for the sustenance of the people, so falling back on agriculture is a welcome development The record achievement of cashew in moving some farmers from economic quagmire to to the limelight, has made several people to put more emphasis in making sure the cashew is properly addressed for more people to benefit. A cashew farmer, Mr Adah Ochai said he was able to commence building of his family house with the sales he recorded from the 2016 cashew season.
Adah who had been basking in the euphoria of cashew business for more than four years, stated this in Lokoja while speaking with our reporter stressing he never made profit from selling cashew nut like what he made last year. However, he stated, the government should look inward to establish a cashew processing machines in the state to engage some few idle hands. Adah further stated “Last year 2016 cashew season was really good for me and many others in my area that has informed the decision to start early preparation this year, stressing, “cashew farmers from Igalamela/Odolu local government made it really good last year”. James Olowo stated that most of those boys who have constituted nusiance to the city have virtually relocated to the communities where cashew has been in vogue. Adah who urged the state government to enforce the law baning bush burning to avoid degradation of the soil stated that some unscrupulous elements in the society take delight in causing untold hardship especially now that all attention has shifted to farming. Mr Adah however called on Federal and State government to synergies effort to ensure that cashew processing machines are established in Kogi State. Available statistics have shown that Nigeria is to attain production of 500,000 cashew nuts in the next four years through mechanized farming and standardization of product plan being put in place by government and private investors. A seasoned expert in the business of cashew over the years, Mr Stephen Ahiaba, the Managing Director, St. Ahiaba Global Resources disclosed this at a meeting of Kogi Agricultural Vision Group (AVG) and the Agricultural Innovative Group (AIG) organised by Synergos Nigeria in Lokoja. Ahiaba said the country through smallholder farmers was presently producing 60,000 metric tons annually adding that the level was going to change with the planned mechanisation and market information available to the farmers presently. “With the market information and negotiation done between 2014 and 2016, we need to upscale production now that agriculture is business through mechanisation plan that will increase production of cashew nuts to 500,000 metric tons in the next four years”. He said that his company in partnership with Technoserve, an international NGO on cashew value chain and Kogi State Government, had introduced Cashew Enhancement Project to build the capacity of cashew farmers. The project, according to him, aims to impact on the inputs, including land development, production, post-harvest handling, standardization, processing and marketing to help rural farmers attain the best agronomical practices. The project had so far impacted on the cashew value chain with the current cashew price adding, “cashew nuts price has grown from average of N7,000 per bag in 2014 to N50,000 in 2017.”
He said that the project also aimed at producing for export as the commodity was now a major source of foreign exchange in many countries with high quality and optimal production. According to the director, India is doing over 700,000 metric tons annually while Brazil with 500,000 metric tons has developed what is called Brazilian Zobo, a variety higher than what we have here. “Mozambique is doing above 400,000 metric tons while Ghana is slightly above 300,000. So, Nigeria has to upscale production. We have the resources to do so and we are going to do so”, he said. Director-General, Kogi Bureau of Public Private Partnership (BPPP) said the state government would partner private initiatives in its effort to make agriculture business for the enhanced welfare of farmers. The major snag envisaged in attaining high yielding interest of cashew to the people, and low income generation for the country is the inability to harmonise the potentials accruable from the cashew.
Mr Victor Adejoh, Synergos Nigeria, Team Lead in the state said Syngergos under the aegis of State Partnership for Agriculture (SPA) with the AVG and the (AIG) was looking forward to more so of such collaborations for enhance agricultural production in the country. Mr Stephen Ahiaba, chairman, Kogi chapter of Cashew Producers Association of Nigeria said that about 500,000 metric tons of cashew apples/fruits worth N50 billion rot away annually in Kogi. Ahiaba who made the startling revelation in an interview with the LEADERSHIP in Lokoja attributed the waste to non-availability of the technology to process the juice from the cashew fruits to derive its health value.
“About 500,000 metric tons of cashew apples rot away on the farms in Kogi State due to lack of technology. There are ample commercial value attached to the cashew apple awaiting to be tapped. The Managing Director said the company imported the technology for cashew juice processing into Nigeria for the first time”, until an indigenous agro-products processing outfit, ST Ahiaba Global Resources Limited decided to delve into the business he said. He hinted that the processing factory, cited in Egume, Dekina Local Government of the state, was in partnership with an international agro-based NGO, Techno-Serve, based in Washington DC to process the juice for consumption.
The juice, branded “Relish Natural Juice”, according to him, is 100 per cent cashew juice without water and additives adding, “What we do is purification and standard packaging and it has two-year shelf-life.” Ahiaba revealed that the company had approached the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for certification, saying, “The Agency described the juice as a wonderful product after laboratory analysis.” The self styled farmer said that the organization was into cashew business to improve the value chain adding that the residue from processed apples could be converted to animal feeds.
He further explained that in collaboration with the state government, his industry had embarked on cashew inspection and grading for global standardization, recalling that “in 2014, a bag of cashew nuts cost N7,000 but in 2017, it costs N50,000.” The Managing Director urged the State Government to accord the cashew industry utmost attention saying, “Kogi stands to benefit a lot if we create necessary attention for the cashew industry.” Part of the vision, he asserted, was to enable “rural farmers borrow ideas from our physical, good agronomic practices because we have introduced cashew enhancement project to develop cashew value chain.”
Director-General, Kogi Bureau of Public Private Partnership (BPPP) , Mr Robert Achanya told our reporter in Lokoja that the state had concluded plans to put in place, a strategic data management system to facilitate its agricultural transformation agenda. He said that for more than 25 years of its inexistence, Kogi could not boast of reliable data pool to plan its development adding that there was no way a state could develop without data-based planning. ‘The BPPP strategy in the agriculture sector is to find how we can support or contribute to government wanting to make agriculture a business and not just farming for farming sake.