IIn Kogi State, cashew farming is increasing people’s income and creating jobs; hence, it has been deemed the largest fruit grower in Nigeria. But farmers lament several challenges that militate against the venture.
In addition to Kogi, other states like Enugu, Anambra, Oyo, Kwara and Osun states would be having the largest production of cashew nuts in the country.
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Alhaji Abdullah Yusuf, owner of a cashew plantation in Dekina local government, said cashew production has boosted the economy of Kogi East.
He said the soil in the area is rich for tree growing, pointing out that it accounts for the thriving cashew trade there.
According to Oche Yakubu, chairman of the Association of Palm Oil in the State and cashew nut merchant from the local government of Olamoboro, the Eastern District, the state is naturally endowed with rich soil for trees. economic: cashew nuts, palm, carob trees, ogbono trees and its tastes.
Among others, cashew production is seen on a larger scale in Dekina, Ofu, Igala-Mela/Odolu, Olamaboro and Idah local government areas of the state.
It has been established that harvesting cashews has a relationship with climatic forces, and as such, harvesting ripe nuts peak from February to April each year in this region of the state.
Daily Trust on Sunday learned that during this time of year, cashew farmers are considered the kings of the land as they wield enough financial influence among their peers/colleagues, dictating the pace of things socially and physically.
Anyigba, a booming economic center in the Dekina local government of the state, is said to be the center (depot) of cashew traders, both in and out of the state.
The eastern region of the state has also welcomed cashew merchants from Asian countries, including South Korea, Vietnam and China, all rushing to buy directly from local farmers.
A cashew trader, Yakubu, who claimed to have a large cashew orchard in Ade in Olamaboro local government, said that foreigners and other people flooded the area because their produce had been graded. among the best in the world.
There is an indication that cashew farming can be very profitable. It was stated in a report in 2021 that the average cashew nut export price stood at $1,266 per ton, with an increase of 6.3% from the previous year.
However, according to a report from the eastern part of the state, mixed feelings seem to follow cashew cultivation for the past two or three years.
It has been reported that foreign merchants who have been invading the area like grasshoppers have vanished from the scene and commodity prices have taken a nosedive, creating a lull in trade for the past two or three years.
Four challenges have reportedly dealt a heavy blow to the state’s thriving cashew business over the past three years: poverty; nature, government interference and cutting edge practices.
According to cashew traders and producers, these forces have created an “artificial market glut” in the cashew sector in recent years.
Oche Yakubu, who has a large cashew orchard, said poverty has caused farmers to not give their plantations the necessary treatment to maintain or increase yields.
He said cashew growers had to fumigate their farms with the necessary chemicals at some point, pointing out that the lack of such care has affected most plantations resulting in low yields.
“In most cases, most farmers would not reinvest the money from seasonal harvests and sales in the next growing season. This is because before that they would have diverted the money to solving stubborn problems,” he said.
Recounting his experience, he said, “Young cashew trees can get better yields in the first two to three years of production. Once aged, it needs to be treated to maintain a good yield, except the wild ones.
Reacting to the situation, the state government said its interference in the cashew trade is aimed at helping address the problem in its value chain.
But some cashew traders and plantation owners who spoke on condition of anonymity said the unnecessary taxes and levies introduced into the system were too heavy to bear without causing losses.
The crisis of an allegedly odious government policy culminated in 2019 when the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), Kogi State Chapter, under the leadership of Elder Sule Ochala, accused the government of government to use all kinds of taxes, harassment and intimidation to strangle cashew growers and traders have ceased operations.
The association reportedly issued a 14-day ultimatum to the state government to rescind all taxes imposed, but to no avail. The crisis continued with different dimensions.
Cashew farmers also said part of their woes were due to the unstable seasonal climate in the region.
“Cashew trees need very little rain during flowering. Heavy and persistent stormy rains destroy the flowers. And the returns will end up being very low. In the past two seasons, we have experienced severe weather which has contributed to low yields,” said Alaji Etubi, a plantation owner in Egume area in the eastern part of Kogi.
Again, Yakubu, a cashew trader and state chairman of the Palm Oil Producers Association, said the straw that broke the camel’s back in the cashew nut trade cashew in the state was the alleged acerbic practices of certain intermediaries or commodity owners and merchants.
He said foreign merchants diverted their attention from cashew products in the state when they discovered that some farmers had started adulterating them with foreign material to increase its weight on the scales to gain more money.
“The middlemen mixed the cashew nuts with stones, pebbles and the like to double their weight on the scale.
“This practice was later discovered by foreign traders, so they abandoned our products for two to three years.
“It was only last year that traders fully restored the business relationship with us, and business started to pick up gradually,” he said.
He also lamented the lack of assistance from the state government, pointing out that most plantation owners were retired civil servants, security guards or low-income people who could not afford to donate. care for their cashew trees to obtain high yields.
Daily Trust on Sunday learned that due to the lucrative nature of the business, residents of Okun, the Yoruba-speaking area of the state, are replacing their cassava farms with cashew plantations.
According to Ojo Demola from Kabba in Kabba/Ijumu Local Government Area, people realized the importance of cashew farming, especially its huge foreign exchange potential and decided to venture into it.
Demola thinks that since their soil can support tree crops like cocoa, kola, mango, orange and guava, producing at a high level, the cashew trees would survive with a high yield.
Meanwhile, at their June meeting in Lokoja, cashew farmers and state stakeholders called for the establishment of a cashew production and development village.
Further, the Trade Promotion Adviser of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ms. Amina Abdulmalik, said, “NEPC has targeted cashew nuts as it is the major agricultural commodity in Kogi State, with enormous potentials that have yet to be fully maximized.
“Recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that apart from aluminum alloys, urea and oil and gas re-exports, the majority of Nigerian exports in 2021 remained raw unprocessed products such as crude oil, cocoa and sesame seeds.”
Another stakeholder, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said funds have been set up for a cashew processing industry in the state.
An apex bank manager, Mallam Hassan Dauda, who represented the financial institution at the stakeholder meeting, encouraged Kogi cashew farmers to seize the opportunity to access the funds.
While noting that the attitude of the Kogi State government towards cashew farming was not encouraging, the CBN urged the government at all levels to ensure that the cashew industry be encouraged in their various fields, adding, “The Central Bank of Nigeria stands ready to help cashew farmers. in the state.”
Cashew fruit, which can be eaten raw, has been scientifically proven to be a reliable source of protein, fatty acids and minerals. It is also said to be useful in the confectionery and bakery industry as the fruit is rich in vitamin C and useful for wine production.