Our country is Africa’s largest cashew nuts grower after Nigeria and Ivory Coast, and the world’s eighth biggest producer of the crop. However, earnings from the crop have been declining due to falling global prices and low production.
According to Bank of Tanzania reports, cashew exports earned the country 133.4 million US dollars for the year ending May 2014, down from 150 million US dollars in the previous year.
However, despite the decline in earnings, there is another important element in the cultivation of the crop. It is only about 10 per cent of the harvest which is processed locally while the rest is sold in raw form to, mainly, India.
Substantial income is being lost in exporting unprocessed nuts and the farmers, who toil the most, earn the least. It is against this backdrop that we view the launch of a manual to improve the value chain of the crop as a very important step in helping farmers and traders benefit from cultivation and selling of the crop.
The United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with the government set up a cashew nut processing and simplified export manuals to guide entrepreneurs who want to engage in export business to improve the value chain of the cashew nuts in the country.
The manual contains important and necessary information to guide investments and operations in the production and trading of cashew nut and other related products.
The Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda said during the launch of the document that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in cashew nuts business will be able to get necessary information, particularly in the access to international market.
Dr Kigoda said that the manual will also provide the roadmap in addressing high factor costs, inadequate technology or lack of equipment, shortage of qualified labour, insufficient production capacity, unfair competition and weak technical support among others.
Why is this important? We have a growing domestic and global demand for cashew nuts. Tanzania is attracting many foreign investments in various sectors and these investments bring in foreign experts and stimulate trade and other investments.
At the same time, Tanzania is having a rapidly growing middle class. We need to be able to explore this lucrative market for cashew nuts.
On global level, the demand for cashew nuts is also growing and which produces 43 per cent of the crop, is seen as the only region that can meet this growing demand.
We need also to be able explore this market and at the same time enhance transparency in the auction system. That can be done, provided everyone plays their role.