What is the place of cashew as an export commodity?
The National Cashew Association of Nigeria is the umbrella body for the cashew industry and our members basically cut across cashew farming and processing export. For the year 2015, the association has contributed significantly to the economy of Nigeria; about N50billion into the nation’s economy in the area of cashew export. We are looking forward to a better business in 2016. Cashew is a very important commodity. It is a cash crop and over 200,000 families depend on cashew for their livelihood in Nigeria. It is a very important sector where our members are doing their best to make the country’s economy and the sector grow.
Cashew is a national crop produced in; Okigwe, Abia, Enugu. In the west it is produced in Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Ondo. Others places are; Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kaduna states. Cashew has a national spread as a national crop.
What percentage does Nigeria grow or contribute to the cashew trade globally?
Nigeria produces just about 140,000 metric ton of the crop annually. This is significant, but it is still very small. Globally the cashew is about 2 to 2.4 million metric tons and the demand keeps rising. Currently, the demand globally is in excess of 2 million tons and that is not enough to meet demand. For health conscious consumers’ cashew has a good taste and it is low in cholesterol.
What are the other health values of cashew nuts?
It is healthy. Even the cashew apple too is also healthy because it contains six times vitamin C content than any other citrus fruit you can think about; orange, name them. Everything about cashew is valuable. This is the kind of industry Nigeria needs to give a national boost and increase massively its production and processing. We have the raw material and it is just reasonable for us to add value to it and make more money for the nation.
Talking about adding value to roasted cashew nut that is sold around the street corners for consumption; what are the other derivatives from the crop?
Everything about cashew is good. Talking about the tree itself when it is fully grown it forms a canopy where people can relax. It acts as a first line of defense against erosion because its roots grow deep down to curb erosion. That explains why cashew was grown across Enugu and Anambra States and its axis because of the problem of erosion in these areas. It is a first line of defence. If you increase the amount of cashew around your residence, you are safe from erosion. The raw cashew nut and kernel are used to process liquid as an industrial raw material used for a lot of industrial applications. It is not processed in Nigeria presently. Then you have the cashew apple juice. We produce about 1.2 million tons of cashew apple juice annually, but about 80 per cent of that is wasted. It is only a little about 10 per cent that is consumed.
Look at almost all commodities none has cash in its name cashew is the only one with the word cash. That is because there is cash in CASHew. We have to give a boost to the cashew sector if government is serious about reducing unemployment in the country.
What is your response to forex restrictions by the CBN on some items imported into the country and will this affect the cashew trade?
Forex is big problem and the only way to solve short supply of forex is to increase our export because this would give the country more money and significantly reduce the pressure on the local currency. We are having challenges because the market is so open because our borders areas and villages are too porous. As a matter of fact there is so much illegal export of commodities that happened through our borders. These kinds of exports are not recorded.
These illicit trades are not controlled. Now a legitimate exporter goes to buy the same cashew and takes his export through the seaports where it is recorded officially. The magnitude of difference between official rates and what obtains in the black market is so tempting and gives a lot room for currency round tripping and arbitrage. This is not helping our members and we cannot pretend it is well. The directive is good for the country, but with negative effects on exports and gives room for malpractices.
What does the association want from the government?
If government wants to encourage agriculture let them do so. If they want to encourage export, good let them do so. There is something about legitimacy and Illegality. They are different; if you want people to play by the rules encourage them, but when you have that magnitude of difference in exchange rates, it creates a lot of room for exploitation. The CBN needs to do a lot of rethinking. It is so unfortunate that at this point in the history of the nation we don’t have enough supply of dollar. To resolve this is to give a boost to export and encourage agricultural export so that there will be increase in dollar inflow to reduce the pressure on the naira. Government should provide a kind of subsidy for exporters because the difference is enormous and shrinking our profits by playing by the rules. I don’t think we should suffer for playing by the rules.
Talking about exporting more, one great challenge of farmers is poor storage; what is your association doing in this direction to ensure and keep loses arising from poor or lack of storage at bay?
It is a fundamental challenge. There is need for more deliberate actions because we are talking about a diversified range of several tons of commodities rotting away. The weight of wastage is colossal. We need to add value to those crops, increase processing and provide cold storage for the products to be preserved and increase the shelf life. Where are the funds to do that? It is difficult to get loans. Access to finance is also a challenge to agricultural lending to enable people take a challenge and put an end to food wastage and losses. Remember, investing in storage facility is a long term investment. So you cannot take a loan from the bank to finance a long term project. We need to look at all of these and it still goes down to the policy framework government is ready to pursue. If government believes the private sector has the capacity to drive the agricultural sector, then it must be ready to give support. The banks must be friendly in terms of financing, guarantee and palliatives on the part of the government. It is inappropriate and financial mismatch to commit a short term loan to finance a long term project. These are some of the issue responsible for non-performance of loans. The current FG needs an agric-centric minister who understands how the agric value chain works. The sector does need a politician. But someone who is versatile, revolutionary, and smart thinking person.
How do you ensure that exported commodities are of international standards and what had been the role of SON and NAFDAC in the export business?
Yes, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have roles to play. You don’t just call an organisation standard without providing the needed standard. You don’t just look at standard and don’t adhere to it. We need the NAFDAC and SON to come together and work with farmers’ exporters and traders.
Sincerely, I don’t know the facility NAFDAC has that is useful to me as an exporter. My members don’t even go through SON. We do product evaluation on our own. It shouldn’t be so. The reason for the establishment of the two bodies is to support exporters and we need to work hand in hand in order to improve and standardise products made in Nigeria. One of the problems we have is Aflatoxin that arises as a result of moisture. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and why should we allow that. Many times our commodities are rejected oversees as a result of aflatoxin contamination. An institution as NAFDAC and SON will ensure high standard of commodities to meet stringent conditions. What they should do is conduct a fresh round of test on what we have with a seal.
Nigerian exporters are left to suffer alone. If the export proceeds do not come on time, what CBN does is to keep on writing the exporter demanding for the money without caring about the shipment and the goods in transit. Nobody cares about the product, but the proceeds. All these institutions need to come together and manage export trade and business properly.