WEST AFRICA – West Africa is now making waves as a major player in the global cashew production industry, according to the latest estimates from N’kalô, an independent trade advisory service.

N’kalo revealed that the West African cashew harvest experienced an impressive 15% increase in 2023, reaching a record-breaking 3 million tonnes.

The remarkable surge in cashew production was attributed to the growing global demand for cashew nuts in the region and West Africa’s commitment to meet this demand.

All major cashew suppliers in the region are credited with the substantial increase, with Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau leading the charge.

Ivory Coast and Nigeria both recorded identical increases of 18%, with Ivory Coast producing 1.36 million tonnes, and Nigeria contributing 405,000 tonnes. Guinea-Bissau, another regional powerhouse, posted a production volume of 305,250 tonnes, marking a 10% increase.

Following the top three producers are Benin (227,500 tonnes, +15%), Ghana (214,500 tonnes, +14%), and Burkina Faso (168,000 tonnes, +12%).

N’kalô’s data showed that approximately 84% of the West African cashew production, equivalent to 2.5 million tonnes, was exported to Vietnam and India, while 415,750 tonnes are expected to be processed locally in the region.

Ivory Coast, often recognized as the third-largest global player in cashew processing, is also set to lead this dynamic with a processing capacity of nearly 270,000 tonnes, followed by Nigeria (80,000 tonnes), Burkina Faso (18,000 tonnes), Benin (17,500 tonnes), and Ghana (14,500 tonnes).

This upward trajectory in West African cashew production reinforces the region’s position as a significant contributor to the global cashew market.

In 2022, Africa accounted for 58% of global cashew production, with West African countries contributing 44% to this figure.

Although production increased by 5.4% the previous year, Cote d’Ivoire remained the world’s largest exporter of cashew nuts, producing about 837,850 tonnes in 2021 and aiming to achieve a domestic processing rate of 40%.

Other West African countries, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Nigeria, also played a substantial role in boosting the region’s cashew production, each contributing nothing less than 100,000 tonnes.

According to official data, the cashew industry’s growth is reflected in its market size, which currently stands at US$793.37 million in Africa.

Experts projected the figure to rise to US$950.04 million by 2028. Notably, Africa holds the title of the second-largest exporter of cashew kernels to Europe, with 90% of its production being exported to Vietnam and India.

However, despite the crop’s increasing value and productivity, cashew farmers and exporters in West Africa receive only a fraction of the retail price.

The majority of raw cashews are exported outside of Africa for processing, predominantly in Vietnam and India.

These processed cashew kernels are then conditioned, packaged, and distributed to importers in the USA and Europe, with the USA being the largest consumer of internationally traded cashew kernels.

Cashew production is concentrated in the central and northern regions of coastal West African countries, involving an estimated 350,000 producers in Côte d’Ivoire and 123,000 producers in Benin.

These producers primarily collect and sell raw cashew nuts from February to April during the dry season, as few other crops are available for sale during this time.