Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) is an important industrial and export crop whose potential is yet to be fully exploited in Nigeria. Cashew has for many years been used for food and income generation. The trees are usually grown for their kernels which when roasted have a very pleasant taste. Cashew is the common name for a tropical and subtropical evergreen tree, Anacardium occidentale L., in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae.
It is also the name for the commercially important kidney-shaped, nut like seed of this plant, which is edible when roasted or cooked (New World Encyclopaedia, 2008). The plant is a native of Tropical Central and South America, notably North Eastern Brazil, from where the Portuguese explorers introduced it into Nigeria in the 15th/16th century.
Raw nuts which are much in demand in industrialized countries are processed into kernels that constitute a valuable export product for confectionery. They are used as an ingredient for making fruit paste, candied fruit, canned fruit, cashew apple, resins, jams and jellies, chutney, fruit juice, alcohol and vinegar. Cashew kernels rank third after almonds and hazelnuts in the international trade of tree nuts. Wine and pulp are produced from cashew apple. Apple is eaten as a raw fruit or is fermented to produce a delicious alcoholic drink.
The pulp is the fibrous part obtained after extracting juice from the apple and could be used as animal feed or dried and processed into diet fiber biscuit. Another product of cashew is the Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL). It is greatly valued in the international market as a raw material for brake and clutch linings, paints, and vanishes. It is also used in lacques, agglutinants, insecticides and fungicides.
Nigeria is one of the top ten Raw Cashew Nut (RCN) producing countries in the world the third largest producers in Africa after Cote D’voire and Tanzania.
Nigeria, having a total area of over 100,000ha cashew plantation and an average annual production of 80,000MT contributes almost 16% of the total production of the agro-ecological zone. Its production is 5% of the global situation. During the last three years, Nigeria has been one of the leading suppliers of raw cashew nuts exported to India. Nearly 18,000 to 23,000MT of raw nuts per annum have been exported earning over N23 billion annually.
As abysmal as it may sound, Nigeria currently processes only about 10% of the raw cashew nuts produced in the country. The rest of the nuts find their way to Asia and other countries where they are processed and exported back to Nigeria as finished and packaged cashew kernels.
Cashew is grown in 2/3 of the 36 states in Nigeria. However, the cashew nuts of export quality and quantity is mainly found in the Western and Eastern states, namely; Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun states, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia states. The Nigerian Cashew is also found to grow in the middle belt states mainly; Nassarawa, Benue, Kogi and Kwara states and FCT Abuja
The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications from lubricants to paints.
In confectionery and bakery products, for example, finely chopped kernels are used in the production of sweets, ice creams, cakes and chocolates, both at home and industrially and as paste to spread on bread.
MARKET FOR THE NIGERIAN RAW CASHEW NUT.
The major buyers of the Nigerian Raw Cashew Nuts are Indian, Vietnam, Singapore, Dubai, and other European countries.
RAW CASHEW NUT TRADING SEASON
Harvest of mature cashew fruits takes place between February or early March up till April. The entire harvest period occurs in approximately 16 weeks. RCN (Raw Cashew Nuts) trading begins from March up till June (beyond June for stored RCN).
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CASHEW NUT
Cashews are rich in Vitamins C, E, K, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and zinc and also contain antioxidants, phytochemicals and protein. The kidney shaped nuts can be eaten, on their own as a snack and they are often used in cooking as well. Adding cashews to your balanced diet can have many benefits and here are ten of the health benefits of cashew nuts:
- Reduces the risk of developing gallstones
- Improve the health of your heart
- Promotes healthy bones
- Can help prevent cancer
- Improves the health of skin and hair
- Aids weight loss
- improves the nerves in your body
- Assists the body in creating energy
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNTIES IN RAW CASHEW NUT
Prospective investors can profit from raw cashew nuts by making investments in the following value chain;
- Cashew Plantation.
- Raw Cashew Nuts Trading.
- Raw Cashew Nuts Exports.
- Raw Cashew Nuts Processing.
- Raw Cashew Nut Storage.
Agbaji Chinedu writes from kaduna:08035004617