Investors in cashew business are optimistic about reaping at least $350m from the industry this year.
The National Publicity Secretary of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sotonye Anga, who gave the indication in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said already about 200,000 high yielding cashew seedlings had been planted in Kwara, Oyo and Cross River states.
According to Anga, investors recently acquired 500 hectares of farmland in Calabar, Cross River State and had commenced the planting of hybrid cashew seedlings.
He said, “We need to grow the next generation of cashew that will make Nigeria great. The good thing with cashew is that once it gets to maturity in four years, for the next 45 years, it will continue to produce fruits.
“The cashew trees that are currently in existence were planted between 1950 and 1970 and the average lifespan of a cashew tree is 50 years. The ones in existence are more than 50 years and if something is not done about this, we may wake up one day to know that cashew trees are no longer yielding fruits.
“The global demand for cashew is huge; three million metric tonnes and the global production is 1.9 million metric tonnes. Our total export of cashew is still very low, 160,000 metric tonnes but we are hoping to increase that to 224,000 metric tonnes in four years.”
According to the NCAN spokesman, the cashew planting project is private sector-driven, adding that the investors have plans to expand into Abia State and increase the land acquisition to 12,000 hectares.
At the flag off of the cashew planting season in Ile-Ife, Osun State, on June 7, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had indicated that the aim of the agricultural programme was to provide employment for Nigeria’s teeming youths.
The minister, who also distributed hybrid cashew seedlings to farmers during the occasion, said, “The time has come to move the youths from the street. We are beginning the cashew plantation now and shall move on to cocoa and banana production. Our young people are going to be the main beneficiaries.”