As Nigeria seeks to explore more avenues to earn foreign exchange and minimise the over-dependence on oil, farmers and other stakeholders have called for more attention to the production, processing and marketing of cashew in view of its huge nutritional and economic value.
Some of them lamented the utter neglect of the product, and regretted that the few farmers engaged in it had neither been supported nor encouraged to adequately reap its vast economic potential.
Though a recent report by the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), revealed that Nigeria was the fourth largest producer of cashew in the world, producing a total of 220,000 metric tonnes of cashew nuts, out of the world’s total of 2.1million metric tonnes in 2017, and exporting 120,000 metric tonnes in the same year, it has been discovered that most farmers were unaware of cashew’s vast potential, while the few enlightened ones had been frustrated out of it because of lack of access to the right market.
Other farmers have remained victims of exploitation by middle men that had often lured them into selling the raw product at giveaway prices.
In Kogi, where more than 50 per cent of cashew exported from Nigeria is produced, Mr Kehinde Oloruntoba, the state commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, enjoined Nigerians to embrace the crop and invest massively in it.
“Cashew has a vast potential to take many Nigerians out of poverty. The federal, states and local governments must encourage farmers to pay attention to the crop,’’ Oloruntoba said.
The commissioner said that Vietnam, which is the major buyer of the cashew nuts from Nigeria, made more than 3 billion dollars from the produce last year.
Cashew crop is cultivated mostly in the eastern, western and central areas of Kogi in local governments like Dekina, Ofu, Idah, Igalamela, Omala and Yagba East.
Other local governments included Yagba West, Mopamuro, Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Adavi, Okehi, Okene, among others.
Oloruntoba said that cashew nuts from Kogi were in high demand in the international market because of their high valued.
“Based on current realities, the nuts will soon sell more than crude oil,’’ he said.
The commissioner regretted that successive governments had neither invested on the crop nor encourage farmers to cultivate it, saying that cashew was a “huge treasure yet to be tapped’’.