How local cashew processing can be a catalyst for sustainable growth
By Arouna Coulibaly, Managing Director Côte d’Ivoire, ofi (olam food ingredients)
Snack bars, spreads, nut-milks, cookies, and other sweet treats; cashew is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient across applications from bakery to beverages, feeding demand for healthier snacking options and plant-based proteins. Many of these versatile and tasty nuts are produced in Côte d’Ivoire, which is the biggest exporter of cashew in the world. They are one of the country’s top three cash-crops, yet only around 10% of raw cashew is processed locallyi, with the rest shipped to Asia for its more advanced, mechanized facilities at lower costs.
As a result, the value to be created from cashew processing also leaves the country. As the largest processor of cashew in Africa, ofi’s Côte’d’Ivoire team is well-placed to be the change for a more integrated and sustainable value chain. For over a decade, our cashew teams have invested in modern machinery to mechanise and expedite local processing, with the creation of over 3,000 direct jobs at our four private processing facilities, more than 70% of which are held by women.
Recently, we’ve partnered with three national cashew processing units in the country’s northern growing region. Our teams will train workers on proper use of equipment and quality control techniques and help build commercial relationships to enhance marketing prospects for the processed kernels.
To expand these efforts, we are working with the Prosper Cashew project to stimulate growth in the country’s processing sector and increase returns to cashew communities. This latest collaboration between ofi and NGO TechnoServe, will provide technical support to farmers and processors and facilitate access to critically needed working capital.
We are one of many actors in the supply chain trying to address intractable challenges like rural poverty and child labor, so multi-stakeholder action is critical to deliver meaningful change at scale. The combined technical and on-the-ground resources of these partnerships will also build on some of our existing programs at farm-gate, where smallholders often battle low yields and quality from a lack of finance, inputs, and training. These include increasing agricultural productivity, reducing waste with improved crop residue management, and community development initiatives focused on tackling malnutrition and building health and sanitation infrastructure. This will contribute to our 2030 target under Cashew Trail for our teams around the world to support the livelihoods of 250,000 cashew households.
Stepping up value-generating activities in producing countries by processing at source, creates traceable cashew kernels with a lower carbon footprint, along with jobs and economic opportunity for farmers, workers, and communities for the long-term. It leaves better-quality cashew that delivers on both sensory and sustainability expectations.