Indian food company Beta Group, owner of the Nut King brand, is set to invest US$100m in cashew nut processing in Guinea-Bissau. In November, Beta chairman J Rajmohan Pillai met with government officials in the tiny West African country to discuss the details of the project, which will procure, process and export cashew, predominantly to the U.S. and Chinese markets.
Guinea Bissau, which has a population of about two million, is one of the continent’s top five raw cashew nut producers – alongside Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Benin, and Tanzania – with an annual crop size of about 250,000 metric tonnes. The country’s nuts are considered to be of superior quality but the industry faces a few obstacles, including red tape associated with the numerous government charges and taxes collected throughout the value chain as well as poor road and port infrastructure. These all push up operational costs.
Africa grows approximately 60% of the global cashew supply but nearly 90% of its harvest is exported in raw form to countries like Vietnam and India for processing that involves removing the kernel’s shell and peeling the nut as well as roasting and salting. Most stakeholders recognise the need for Africa to capture a bigger portion of the value by processing the nuts on the continent, which could generate an additional US$280m per year and create 250,000 new jobs. Its geographical proximity to the American and European markets gives it an advantage over Asian processors in terms of a fresher product and lower logistics costs.
However, a recent opinion piece by Wim Schipper, an executive committee member of the African Cashew Alliance, highlights some of the difficulties of running a profitable processing venture. This may explain why many prefer to focus on trading rather than running a factory. He says those involved require in-depth knowledge of many aspects of the business, from purchasing the right quality of nuts at the ideal price to managing a large team of people in the plant. They also need to know about the latest processing equipment and ensure they have the capital to invest in it, while at the same time certifying the business for food safety and social compliance. Even if they’ve done all this, a drop in global kernel prices might wipe out their profits, Schipper explains.
Despite these challenges, many companies have established successful processing ventures. Singapore-based agribusiness major Olam started out in 1989 by exporting cashew from Nigeria to India. Today, it sources the nuts from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso, and has processing facilities spread across several of these countries. In Côte d’Ivoire, investment banker turned entrepreneur Salma Seetaroo founded Cashew Coast in 2018 and exports about eight containers of organic processed nuts per month. And in Tanzania, YYTZ Agro-Processing produces packaged nuts under the brand More than Cashews, which it sells in the U.S. and Europe through stores such as Whole Foods, Amazon and Albertsons.
‘Exporting cashew nuts from West Africa to Europe: CEO shares her story’, How we made it in Africa, 31 January 2022
‘By uncovering the story behind their products, these African companies are boosting sales’, How we made it in Africa’, 1 May 2022
‘Beta Group to invest $100 million in Guinea-Bissau in cashew biz’, The Hindu Business Line, 16 November 2022
‘India’s cashew king latest among many to shut biz in Kerala’, The Pioneer, 27 November 2022
‘Our cashew supply chain’, Olam, Accessed on 27 November 2022
‘Perspectives on cashew in Africa’, African Cashew Alliance, 2022
‘Invest in Africa’, African Cashew Alliance, 2022