But the sector’s ability to become an engine for economic growth has been constrained by several regulatory mishaps. The national body tasked with regulating the cashew nut sector has been rebranded many times in an attempt to improve efficiency – from the Southern Cashew-nut Board, to Cashew-nut Authority of Tanzania, Tanzania Cashew-nut Marketing Board and now the current Cashewnut Board of Tanzania.
Each change has adjusted its duties so at one time it dealt with processing and marketing cashews; then with buying the nuts through unions and individuals; and, since 2007, implementation of the warehouse receipting system, which has received support from some quarters such as the Agricultural Non State Actors Forum (ANSAF), but does not seem to have been well received by farmers.
Critics add that the CBT has failed to tackle the most important issue of increased production, since Tanzanian smallholder farmers, like their colleagues on the continent, produce only half the yield of the world average at between 400-500kg p/ha, according to IDH. Challenges such as these therefore prevent the sector from operating at its full potential.
While Tanzania struggles with such matters, other global producers are preparing to capitalise on the sector to their national advantage. As of July, Nigeria – the world’s sixth-largest cashew producer – is eyeing the support of USAID to develop its cashew value chain and improve crop yields, which could see national export earnings increase annually from N25bn to N200bn ($152m to $1.2bn).
Guinea-Bissau – the seventh-largest producer – is also developing a strategy ahead of the World Cashew Festival and Expo in Ghana in November, on the back of a 40% increase in cashew exports in July.
Plans announced in August by Pepsi India to use cashew juice, instead of the more expensive apple, pineapple and banana juices in its global fruit drinks, may add an additional revenue stream for cashew farmers across the world and help the value of the crop skyrocket in international markets.
Such initiatives are being matched by increased attention in Africa’s cashew sector from Vietnam, China, Brazil and Europe, all of whom are investigating opportunities to invest in large scale mechanised processing and sustainable supply chains in Africa.
Tanzania needs to quickly move beyond price disagreements in the sector if it is also to benefit from investments coming to the continent, and see the sector’s growth offer relief to some of the 12m Tanzanians on low incomes.