The Gambia has called for its inclusion in the next batch of countries where the Africa Cashew initiative (ACi) will be implemented.
The ACi is a five-year (2009 – 2013) project sponsored the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and a wide range of US and European Companies. The implementation of the project is currently going on in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Mozambique to help farmers become more competitive and overcome poverty.
“I strongly urge the ACi financiers and partners to ensure that the ACi is replicated in another set of countries that so deserve similar interventions including The Gambia,” said Abdou Kolley, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, during the opening of the 6th annual conference of the African Cashew Alliance hosted by The Gambia from 19 – 22nd September 2011.
The five countries where the ACi is underway were chosen based on certain criteria, according to information from ACi.
These criteria include their individual poverty level vis-a-viz cashew production level. The level of cashew production in those countries is high enough to secure access to the global market.
Again, there is high potential for wealth creation through the cashew value chain in the general business climate in the selected countries.
Even though the Trade Minister has not disclosed whether the Gambia has met the above-mentioned criteria based on which the five countries where selected, he described the country as one of the “deserving countries” where the ACi should be implemented and has emphasized called on the financiers of the project to the scale up the initiative to other countries.
However, the sponsors of the project are yet to say anything with regards to whether the project will be replicated in other countries.
In the past three years, Hon. Kolley said, the Gambie has witnesses an unprecedented rise in cashew production and export. According to the National Cashew Farmers Association, production increased from 300mt in 1993 to 2,800mt in 2005 rising to 6,800mt in 2009. Similarly, the farm gate price also rose from D18 per kilo in 2009 to D24 per kilo in 2010.
Momodou Ceesay, president of Cashew Alliance of The Gambia and the managing director of Gambia Horticultural Enterprise (GHE) said: “Gambian cashew is one of the best quality-wise in the sub-region with nut count 190 – 210 per kilo (number of cashew nuts in a kilo), and is highly sought after by the international buyers.”
From the 1990's to 2006, all researches conducted in the country revealed that the cashew grown in the country is the best quality compare to other countries in the sub-region.
The cashew industry was hailed for its potential to create new jobs and generate additional income through the production and processing of Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) thus highlighting the numerous opportunities that the cashew industry would offer for poverty alleviation in the country.
Mr Ceesay pointed out that there has been tremendous increase in production in the last five years with an estimated total tonnage in 2011 of about 20000 tonnes from 6000 tonnes.
“With new planting coming on stream couple with the good climatic conditions we estimate close to 25,000 tonnes in the next cashew season,” Ceesay remarked.
The growing cashew sector in the Gambia is attributed purely on the commercial viability of the product, the dynamism of the private sector, and the tremendous support of the government of the Gambia.
The president of Cashew Alliance of The Gambia said this year Gambia exports some 65000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts thanks to the conducive business environment and efficient seaport. He said the prospect for raw cashew nut export over the next two years is very good as demand continue to outstrip supply worldwide.
As the cashew industry becomes more popular among smallholder farmers, it will directly affect the economic and social growth and development of the country and Africa in general.
“We must therefore strive to improve the productivity and yields of the cashew tree through breeding and best management practices of plantation to encourage farmers as they will earn more income per unit area of land,” Ceesaid explained.