NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – The cashew nuts industry wants to increase its production by 20 percent annually in the next five years to reach 40,000 Metric Tonnes by 2015.
This would be through rehabilitation and replenishment of existing cashew trees, farmers’ organised groups, media campaigns, political engagement and entry of new potential areas for growth of the crop like Tharaka in Lower Eastern Province in a bid to enable the country capture a share of the global market.
Nut Processors Association Chief Executive Officer Charles Muigai said on Friday that cashew nuts production, which was predominant at the coast had declined from 14,000 tonnes in 2007 to 8,000 tonnes last year, which he attributed to a dysfunctional production and marketing system.
“As it is today, cashew trees at the coast are treated like wild trees. We want farmers to see them as cash crops whereby they tend to them by weeding and clearing the bushes around,” Mr Muigai said.
Kenyan cashew nuts production represents less than one percent contribution to the continent’s annual production which is currently at 850,000 tons.
Currently there are about 2.4 million cashew nut trees which are old and unkempt, according to Mr Muigai.
“If in the five years we can infuse one million trees, we will be on the path to renewing our cashew nuts base,” he added.
Although the returns to farmers had not been well estimated, he said they were working to ensure minimum farm gate prices were set so that farmers were not exploited by brokers.
“In the regime we are in, it is illegal to export unprocessed cashew nuts because there is a ban in place and what we are working on is to talk to the enforcement authorities to make sure that they are ahead of the smugglers,” he stated.
Mr Muigai said they had a price dialogue system whereby they worked with farmers to set minimum prices.
He gave an example of the last season where the minimum price was set at Sh35 per kilogram (kg) but competition among processors closed the season at a farm gate of Sh68 per kilo of cashew nuts.
“The production that we have is not even enough for one processor and we have four major processors,” he noted.
The association together with the Ministry of Agriculture was currently conducting a campaign known as nuts revitalisation programme in Coast region to rally farmers on tree replenishment.
“We are not cutting the old trees but rather we are providing seeds to the farmers so that within the next five years we can now cut down the old trees and have the new crops that will be more productive because of the genetic type of tree,” he explained.
The cashew nuts season in Kenya is between November and January.
Mr Muigai was speaking ahead of an up coming African Cashew Alliance conference to be held in Gambia next month.
African Cashew Alliance Managing Director Christian Dahm said the conference which would be held between September 19 and 22 would provide cashew nut growing countries an opportunity to place themselves on the global map.
“It is the first time we will be bringing processing equipment from Asian and European countries to Africa to showcase how they function,” Mr Dahm said.