Number munching: cashew nuts (en)
Most people would associate cashew with nuts. More correctly, though, cashew nuts are really the seeds of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale). And while it is indigenous to Brazil, it was the Portuguese who first saw the commercial potential of cashew and brought it to West and East Africa and Brazil in the 15th and 16th century. To this day, there is large-scale production of cashew on all three continents.
While the original usage of cashew tree was to prevent soil erosion, today the most valuable part of the tree is the nut (seed), which can be found in the tree’s apple. The cashew apple, too, is edible and can be eaten raw, but is mostly processed for pulp of juice.
The cashew nut can also be eaten raw but is usually sold fried or sometimes salted or sweetened. To ensure that no part of the cashew apple is wasted, the shell of the nut is also utilized to produce oil for industrial and medical purposes, for example to treat wood, but it can also be found as an additive in for example brake fluid.
Cashews are grown in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia and according to estimates from the World Bank, around 97% of the world cashew production comes from wild growth and small farms, while the remaining 3% come from planned plantations.
While the ECOWAS region has experienced in recent years a drop in both the production of cashew nuts and its market share, it is still ranked as number-one export region of cashew nuts. In 2010 the region’s market share of exports was 42.9% with a value of US$ 151.5m. Of the ten ECOWAS countries, Nigeria is the biggest producers of cashew nuts.
The world’s biggest producer of cashew nuts, however, is Viet Nam. In 2010 Viet Nam produced 958,000 tons of cashew nuts, while its nearest ‘rival’, India, produced 695,000 tons. Nigeria came third with a production of 580,761 tons. As for the biggest importer of cashew nuts, that spot, too, is held by Viet Nam.
Top producers of cashew nuts in 2010 (figures in metric tons)
1 Viet Nam 958,000
2 India 695,000
3 Nigeria 580,761
4 Côte d'Ivoire 246,383
5 Brazil 220,505
6 Indonesia 145,000
7 Philippines 111,993
8 United Republic of Tanzania 79,100
9 Mozambique 67,846
10 Guinea-Bissau 64,653
11 Benin 49,487
12 Thailand 38,184
13 Ghana 35,647
14 Malaysia 10,335
15 Kenya 8,381
To learn more about cashew-nut exports, the complete factsheet can be downloaded free of charge here.
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