Cashews have become a staple in the diets of people all over the world, from Brazil to India to the United States, and they add a signature pop to so many delicious cuisines. And even more recently, bulk cashews have become a darling of the vegan and plant-based world, as cashews’ creamy texture has made them a delicious and nutritious substitute for anything from milk to butter to cheese. But, while cashews are becoming increasingly accessible and popular, what do you know about how they are produced? Or how the cashew boom around the world affects the farmers that grow cashews? It might not be your first thought when you reach for your bulk cashews, but how your food is produced should help you decide where and from whom you purchase your favorite foods.
The Current Cashew Processing Problem
The last 20 years have seen a huge jump in cashew demand and production, and African countries have produced about two-thirds of the growth that has occurred over this time. But typically, cashews grown in African countries are exported for processing to India or Vietnam, the other two major cashew growers and processors in the world. Once harvested, cashews must be carefully treated and processed to remove the nut from the casing. This process is delicate because cashew shells contain a toxin that can cause damage to the skin, resulting in burns and rashes. Because of the meticulous nature of raw cashew processing, this part of the supply chain is often exported to other countries. India and Vietnam account for nearly 98% of cashew processing. And once these countries have processed these nuts, they are shipped once again to consuming countries that often roast, chop, or prepare the nuts in other ways.
All these steps in the supply chain add value to the final product, but this value never makes its way back down to the farmers at the beginning of the supply chain. Farmers then make a fraction of the retail price, and their communities and countries miss out on income opportunities from the value-added steps after harvesting and processing. So, why aren’t African producers taking advantage of the high-value steps in the cashew supply chain?
The Value of Value Creation in Africa
The tropical climate in many African countries provides the perfect environment for cashews to grow. But less than 15% of the worldwide production of cashews are deshelled in Africa. The value added later on in the supply chain can be 8 to 10 times more than the price paid to African farmers for raw, unshelled cashews.
For countries like the Ivory Coast and Benin, this means that the opportunity for value creation could go far by ways of job creation and higher wages. The additional income in these African countries, many of which are still classified as “developing,” would be incredibly valuable.
Keeping the shelling, processing, roasting, and packaging of bulk cashews in the producing countries gives producing countries higher revenue in one of the most stable and profitable industries in Africa already. This additional income will keep good jobs in Africa, as well as reducing poverty within the country and region.
How Beyond the Nut Supports Cashew Farmers
In order for cashew farmers to truly benefit from the added value of keeping more of the supply chain in the country, additional policies and support are needed from legislative bodies and international markets alike.
Beyond the Nut’s holistic approach to ethical, sustainable bulk cashew production starts with the farmer and ends with the consumer, but we also recognize and support all the partners in between that make this supply chain possible. Entrepreneurs, engineers, technicians, and trainers all contribute to the bustling local economy in Benin, where Beyond the Nut partners with processing facilities on the ground to bring you delicious and ethically sourced cashews.
This holistic approach brings positive change and impact to the surrounding families and businesses in cashew-producing communities. Through Beyond the Nut’s non-profit, Projects for Progress, Beyond the Nut is educating and empowering women and children to move and think beyond their current circumstances to a future of hope and prosperity.
The next time you reach for your favorite cashew snack, make sure you’re reaching for Beyond the Nut cashews. Your favorite snack can bring prosperity to cashew growers in Benin and beyond.