Starting a cashew plantation is one of the wisest things an agro-entrepreneur can do. This is because it is profitable and sustainable. Cashew is a perennial cash crop, whose growth occurs seasonally. It is typically a tropical plant and fruit sensitive tree crop that starts bringing forth fruits from February and lasts till near rainy season in Nigeria. Its fruits are freshly harvested within this period for processing and consumption. Also, the nuts when fresh are normally sold raw or processed to some degree before being sold or exported.
Globally, there is a huge demand for cashew which because of its nutritional value the demand for it currently outweighs the supply. Nigeria cannot meet the requirements of exports; however, cashew nuts have contributed significantly to the growth of the total income of the country. For now, we are the number 6 producers of raw cashew nuts in Africa, falling under Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mozambique according to cashew association.
There’s more money in processing or roasting cashew than selling them raw. This is the reason why the Nigeria Minister for Agriculture Mr Audu Ogbeh said in 2019 Nigeria would no longer be selling raw cashew nuts but will rather process/roast them in other to benefit from the high cost of exporting the nuts
For Nigeria to become the second highest exporters we need to export about 500,000 tons of raw cashew. Cashew grows almost everywhere in Nigeria but is concentrated primarily in the southern and middle belt regions by small landholding farmers.
Major cashew growing across in Nigeria are Enugu, Abia, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Cross River States in the Eastern part of Nigeria; Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Ogun States in the western part as well as Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba, Niger and Abuja in the middle belt and also Sokoto and kebbi state in the Northwest part of the country.
According to FAO 2015 report, Nigeria production of cashew nuts estimated at 0.97 million tones, which suggest that the cashew nut market is relatively large globally.
Cashew products (both the fruits and nuts) has been identified as a major contributor to the economy especially the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Which has been guided by the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (formerly known as Cashew Association of Nigeria (CASHTAN) having identified that cashew has been ranked an excellent cash crop after cocoa.
Cashew plantation in my home country Nigeria has not been able to satisfy the demand of its products globally from countries like India, Indonesia, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, and Middle East Countries, this gives room to any potential investor to take advantage of the value chain in cashew farming or cashew plantation.
STEPS INVOLVED IN STARTING A CASHEW PLANTATION BUSINESS
To start cashew farming, below are things you should consider before venturing into cashew farming / cashew plantation, the first thing that should come to mind is making researches first from people that are into the business.
1. Getting a suitable land
2. Selection / sorting
5. Disease/pest control
STEPS INVOLVED IN STARTING A CASHEW PLANTATION BUSINESS EXPLAINED
- Getting a suitable land: Getting a land is a core priority in cashew plantation. Leasing is not advisable because it is a long-term investment. The best soil to use is sandy soil with laterite. Clear grasses and cut down shrubs and trees. Use machines to plough and level the land. Mix the sand with animals’ dung if the nutrient is low but you have to test the soil first to know its nutrient level. Cashew plantation can be done both in wet and dry season.
- Selection/Sorting: Sorting for the best should also come to mind. Cashew is of different types which are: Brazilian cashew, Chinese cashew, Indian cashew. The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), has produce hybrid cashew nuts which matures and produce fruits within 3 years, example is the Jumbo hybrid. The seedling of cashew plant for one is 350 NAIRA ( Nigerian Currency ). Improved seedlings of cashew plantation are Jumbo, Medium and small.
- Planting: Cashew plantation can be done with fresh seeds that can easily be tested by its ability to sink in water or may be raised in the nursery or as seedlings. Also, propagation techniques such as grafting and layering may be used in planting. Cashew plantation should be aimed at the onset of the rainy to facilitate germination, growth, and establishment; alongside other cultural activities like mulching, fertilizer application, reseeding, irrigation, weed, and pest control. 8m x 5m will give 100 seedlings on a hectare 7.5 x 7.5 will give 175 per hectare, 8m x 8m will give you 156 per hectare. At an early stage before the cashew plantation tree grows and cover the farm one can inter-crop with cassava, plantain, pineapple etc.
- Fertilization/Weeding: Cashew crops need nutrients at every point in their development stages to grow faster and to produce good fruits. During the cashew plantation growing stages, fertilizer should be applied, and also during fruiting and flowering. Apply farmyard manure 15kg once in a year to a mature cashew tree. Weeding by cutting off entangled branches, removing overcrowded area so as to give room to clean straight branches. Using compost manure in mulching the entire farm to reduce weeds growth and to conserve moisture.
- Disease/pest control: Using pesticides and insecticides, plant resistant varieties to treat common pests and disease of cashew Some of the pests attacking cashew are; root and stem borer, tea mosquito, leaf miner etc. cashew plants Diseases are; twig and for a shoot die back, root rot etc.
- Harvesting: Cashew plantation usually matures 3months after flowering, which is usually around January, February. The cashew nut is separated from the fruit. The fruit can be eaten raw, dried. Canned or squeeze for juice production. Before the trees starts dropping their fruits make sure the areas around the trees are cleared. Removing grasses and other weeds around the tree to allow for effective picking of the raw cashew nuts. When the fruit falls, it means they are matured. Pick the nuts within 2 to 3 days of falling to avoid quality reduction.
- Drying: Ineffective removal of the nuts would affect the quality. Drying them on a clean surface and turning them frequently to ensure uniform drying. Drying them indoors might bring about a delay in drying which can lead to decay. Avoid drying them on a metallic surface because of rust. When the nuts are well dried, they would produce rattling sound when turned. The drying may take few days such as 23 days but always carry them inside during dusk to avoid moisture entering the nut.
- Storage: The proceeds from the cashew plantation, that is, the cashew nuts, should not be stored in containers, sacks, plastics or their likes, but, jute bags. stitch the jute bag to avoid spoilage. Place the bags on wooden pallets in a dry place with good ventilation. Don’t place them on the floor to avoid moisture absorption that may spoil them. Leave a clearance of 0.5m between each bag for air to circulate properly, to avoid deteriorating, the nuts should be sold in the same year of the cashew plantation harvest.
- Marketing: Although, there is a ready market for cashew nuts, taking the right approach is best suitable for it’s market by Locating companies that buy them for export, which are mostly based in Lagos. Indians have a good number of representatives of cashew companies in Nigeria. One can also sell directly to foreign buyers by logging on to global online portals like ofarms.ng, Alibaba, there are eligible cashew nut buyers on it. To avoid all this stress, one can also make online advertisements for distributors and suppliers to patronize. Our fee is almost zero.