The country currently cultivates about 400,000 hectares of land for the commodity.
Commodities industry data, according to Bloomberg, show that demand for cashew nuts has been on the upswing and has jumped 53% since 2010, outpacing production in at least four of the past seven years.
The global popularity and consumption of cashew nuts have been growing faster than any other tree nut – even almonds, which market watchers feel could be a next goldmine for non-oil revenues, which currently is estimated at N838.58 billion.
The National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) specifically has pointed out that the current global market trends showed an increase in demand for cashew, which the country could tap into for revenues.
Sotonye Anga, spokesperson of the association and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Quest Limited, said that this was due to good agricultural practice and improvement introduced to farmers in 2014.
In 2014, Vietnam, the world’s top cashew nut exporter, imported a record 769,000 tons of the raw nuts for processing for export, a surge of 59.3 percent from the preceding year, according to Vietnam News report, which quoted the Vietnam Cashew Association.
Of note is the fact that of the imported volume, 106,700 tons came from Nigeria, or nearly 90 percent of the country’s annual output, the report said.
Current cashew nut prices at the international market are estimated at between $1200 and $1300 per metric ton while the country’s production level is put 160,000 metric tons.
Sotonye said that a new 200,000 cashew trees have been planted this year, which in four years would get to maturity and would make the country a relevant cashew producer, earning it several millions of dollars annually.
He said he singlehandedly took it upon himself to plant 200,000 new cashew trees across the country.
Sotonye while speaking in a telephone interview with Independent said his company was able to plant the new cashew trees in Abia, Kwara, Cross Rivers, Oyo, among other states of the federation, adding that these will be the next generation of cashew trees that are going to be producing the cashew nuts that will make Nigeria very relevant in the cashew world.
He said the fact remains that most of the cashew trees in Nigeria that farmers and exporters depend on for cashew nuts and other cashew products are over aged and the demand for cashew is constantly rising.
“So in terms of production we need to open up new cashew plantations, we need to meet that demands. Nigeria needs to meet its own share of the global cashew need, we are talking about demands of over three million metric tons and we currently have a demand shortfall of over a million metric tons globally and these have to be met and this is one area that Nigeria has comparative advantage.
“If we take seriously the issue of job creation, youth employment, poverty alleviation we need to take cashew cultivation more seriously and put more areas under cashew plantation so that we can make more economic prosperity for the country and earn more foreign exchange thereby reducing the pressure on the naira”, Sotonye noted.
“So we need to set up more plantations, more than urgent, when we are saying there is no job this is job for us to do, so we have to get the job done, we are growing the new trees, come 2017 we are going to do a lot more,” he added.
He pointed out that Nigerians cannot continue to wait for government to get things done, thereby calling on other Nigerians to take it up and get it done.
“As Nigerians we need to do big things and in doing big things you need to separate yourself from the crowd and take the staff and pursue it and that is a wakeup call that gentlemen enough of the talking and now it is time for action. We need to do more action, we need to get work done, we need to transform the bushy into a world class plantation because Nigeria got lands but having land is not enough, the lands have to be transformed to something”, he said.
“For every cashew tree you plant, that cashew tree ones its grows to maturity it will feed you for the next 50 years so what are we talking about, that is pension or what better guarantee do we have other than produce tree that will produce prosperity.”
Speaking further Sotonye said cashew will mature in four years and that in monetary terms it will translate to several millions of dollars, but one has to plant first then wait for the harvest.
“In four years time it would mature, these are high breeds, in two years it begins to produce but the volume it produces in the second year is not for commercial, the commercial production starts from the fourth year and then from that fourth year to the next 50 to 60 years of its life it would be producing every year so we are going to be harvesting in the plantation every year.
“This is something you can set up and you don’t need to work again for the rest of your life, just all you have to do is harvest those trees and live on them. That is business for life.
“People should stop complaining about employment we need to become employers of labour, we need to engage the soil that we have, we need to engage the lands that we have, we need to engage the idle hands that we have, there are so many idle hands that we have we need to engage them and this is also again moving capital to the rural areas, that is what we have done in all of these areas where we have moved cashew plantations into, we have been able to create employment massively in those rural communities,” he added.
However, industry experts fear that high prices might impact consumption next year.