Before the 1970s, the cashew nut was one of Mozambique’s main export products, with production reaching 200,000 tons per year.
Pests, diseases and ageing trees led to a decline in production, plunging to 64,000 tonnes in 2012. However, reforms introduced since 2000 are rekindling the crop, which this year is expected to market 140,000 tons.
In the colonial period, cashew nuts were one of the main export bases, with the north of the country playing an especially important role. At the start of the 1970s, Mozambique was on a par with behemoths such as India, reaching record crops of 200,000 tons.
Then there was a deep crisis in the sector. Nationalisation led to the closure of many processing plants, and ageing trees meant lower crops, while disease and pests attacked plantations, and the country disappeared off the international map for years.
The cashew sector is a value aggregator by definition: it employs a lot of people, and many small and medium producers benefit from the sale of raw nuts and processing. Cashew nuts fetch a good price in the international market.
Revitalising the sector was the watchword of Joaquim Chissano’s government, and the first step was to create a specific sector within the then Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (INCAJU) in 1997.
Three years later, in 2000, a massive chemical spraying programme was rolled out. But the most important step was the approval by the Council of Ministers of an intense seedling production and distribution replanting programme in 2009.
This saw the creation in Nassuruma, Meconta district, Nampula province, of a mammoth cashew tree nursery producing 800,000 trees per year.
“At the moment, INCAJU is rehabilitating cashew industry through the production of seedlings with desirable characteristics and their distribution to producers in different parts of the province,” head of the Technology Development Division at INCAJU in Nampula Halahala Abdurremane explains.
Nampula province is a major producer of cashew nuts, contributing 50 to 60 percent of annual crops. In the 2018-19 season, for example, 140,000 thousand tons of raw nuts are expected to be marketed nationally, but recent figures show that Nampula has already sold 70,000 tons.
The Nassuruma seedlings are distributed to Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces as well as in Nampula itself.
The main emphasis in cashew growing now is the perfecting of grafting technique to multiply the number and productivity of seed trees. INCAJU technician Elidio Zitha explains.
“We can guarantee that, from the second year onwards, you will have some nuts in the cashew tree, its maximum potential being reached from the fifth year. We believe this is a great advantage. A normally tree only crops from the fourth or fifth year.”
One of the factors behind the demise in the cashew nut sector was the World Bank’s 1995 proposal for raw nuts to be exported for processing elsewhere, on the grounds of the alleged unsustainability of the processing industry in Mozambique.
But after more than 20 years, the government has learned its lesson, and now encourages the installation of processing factories. Nampula alone has fourteen.
One of them is the Indian-owned Korosho Moçambique, opened by President Nyusi in 2017, which can process 8,000 thousand tons per year.
Martins Venvele told us that the factory employs 1,200 workers and that the business is profitable, with all the processed cashews exported to countries such as South Africa, Portugal, Canada and the US.
Not a single nut remains for the national market! “It has to do with pricing. So the domestic market does not consume our production, just the international market,” Venvele admits.
This runs counter to the government’s position that it wants cashews to be processed in Mozambique.
The Cashew Development Institute has set up a small factory-school in Nassuruma to train small and medium-sized producers in the production of alcoholic drinks and juices from cashews. A cashew brandy – Ekhaju – is distilled in the locality, and there is also a branded juice.
By Ricardo Machava
Source: O País via Club of Mozambique