By Alex Enebeli
The Federal and Enugu State Governments have pledged to initiate policies to support large scale cashew production in the country.
The pledge was made in their separate speeches during the 2024 National Cashew Day and Cashew Season Flag Off ceremony, organised by the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) in Enugu.
The theme of the event is “Transforming Nigeria Cashew Industry through Technology, Innovation and Inclusive Policies”.
In a speech, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Sen. Abubakar Kyari, described the programme as a significant step towards the growth and prosperity of the cashew industry.
Kyari, represented by the ministry’s Deputy Director (Tree Crops), Federal Department of Agriculture, Mr Usman Tukur, said that the cashew sector held immense potential to drive economic growth, enhance food security and promote sustainability.
According to him, the cashew value chain is among the crops being promoted by the ministry to enhance food security and promote economic growth.
”We have over the years carried out a number of activities that include the distribution of improved seeds and seedlings to cashew farmers free of charge and establishment of cashew cottage industries in some producing states.
“As a result, various direct and indirect jobs are being created along the crop value chain to improve farmers income and country’s foreign exchange earnings,” he said
Kyari further said that President Bola Tinubu’s government was committed to providing the necessary resources to stakeholders to achieve their goal of building a vibrant cashew industry that would improve the livelihood of farmers and stakeholders.
In her remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Anite-Uzoka, said the ministry was working closely with other relevant government agencies and the organised private sector to create a robust cashew sector that delivers global competitive value-added products.
This, she said, they were doing to secure high profits for all actors through right programmes and activities aimed at enhancing the respective value chain, particularly value addition and product development.
Anite-Uzoka said the ministry had taken into account the need to create the right environment and platforms to spur investment across the cashew value chain.
She said that it would also create market linkages and provide technical support towards strengthening the domestic production and processing capacities.
Also speaking, Gov. Peter Mbah, represented by the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Agro Industrialisation, Mr Patrick Ubru, said that agriculture plays a very significant part in the planning of approaches in driving private sector investment.
Mbah said that the State Government had a clear thought on what it was doing, in respect of cashew production.
According to him, the government intends to reactivate several hundred hectares of existing cashew plantations in places like Oghe, Ezeagu and Oji River.
“We plan to continue to work closely with partners and stakeholders, like NCAN and its members, and we are confident that with shared commitment, cashew products can become a leading foreign exchange earner in Nigeria between four and five years,” Mbah said.
In a keynote address, Mr Tajudeen Abbas, the Speaker, House of Representatives, represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Prince Adeniji Adeyemi, said that the house was committed to passing relevant laws that would promote cashew production in the country.
Earlier, NCAN President, Dr Ojo Ajanaku, said that NCAN members come together annually to discuss cashew and the way forward as Nigeria is privileged to produce cashew across the nation.
Ajanaku described NCAN as the private sector representative of the Nigeria cashew industry with the conglomeration of producers, processors, marketers and service providers.
”Nigeria was once the highest producer of cashew in the world but dropped from number one ranking to number six.
“The country that is leading today is Cote d’Ivoire. Before, Cote d’Ivoire produced less than 150,000 tonnes of cashew when Nigeria was producing over 800,000 tonnes.
“Today, Ivory coast is producing over one million tonnes, while Nigeria is producing 350,000 tonnes.
“I think we can do something better to change that scenario.
“There are lots of technologies and innovations today that can change the scenario and we believe it cannot be achieved without policies to back it up.
”A sector without a policy is like an orphan without a guide,” the NCAN president said.
Meanwhile, some cashew farmers have listed herders attacks, paucity of funds, poor storage facilities and the lack of technology as the major challenges facing large-scale production of cashew in the country.
A cashew farmer, Mrs Joy Ozo, said she abandoned her cashew plantation due to the incessant herders’ attacks in Enugu.
Ozo said, “We can’t go to our farms alone except in groups to avoid being killed by the rampaging armed herders.” (NAN)
Edited by Chinyere Bassey/Sam Oditah