Historical Development of the Cashew in Ivory Coast
Cashews, which bear the scientific name Anacardium occidentale and belong to the family of anacardiaceae, and cashew nuts are grown in northern, north-western and north-eastern Ivory Coast, where cashews and cotton are the main cash crops. In Ivory Coast, cashew production as such started in 1959. The first cashew trees were planted in 1959 and 1960. In partnership with villagers, with a view to improving the protection of ecosystems seriously affected by deforestation and fighting bush fires. The plantations underwent several developments over the years.
The total production of cashew nuts in Ivory Coast rose from 6,300 tons in 1990 to 335,000 tons in 2008, with over 20% of the increase occurring between 2004 and 2010. And Ivory Coast produced 550,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts in 2014—about 22% of the global production. The figure is expected to hit a record 600,000 tonnes at the end of the 2015 harvesting season, placing the country as one of the world’s top producers.
The Economic Role of Raw Cashew Nut in Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast currently exports more cashew nuts than any other country worldwide and is the world’s third highest producer of cashews, the lion’s share of the production is exported in the form of raw cashew nuts to India (71%) and Viet Nam (28%).
The annual “money-harvesting” season is in full swing in Ivory Coast. For the fortunate cashew nut farmers in the central and northern parts of the country, February through June is harvest time. Here cashew nut growing has improved the lives of farmers significantly. They get more money from it than they would make from growing food crops or cotton. The impact has transformed their lives and they now refer to their orchards as places where “money grows on trees.” Ivory Coast’s cashew nut boom is remarkable.
To the Ivory Coast economy, the cashew boom presents an unexpected but welcome opportunity to diversify agricultural exports beyond cocoa beans and rubber. It will also help develop the country’s agro-industry. However, to realize its full potential, Ivory Coast has to process and add value to its raw cashews. While the country has the capacity to process 65,000 tonnes of raw nut annually, it currently doesn’t reach the target. Even then, the processing is usually limited at separating broken nuts from whole nuts and packaging them in sacks for exports.
Raw Cashew Processing Towards Industrialization
In earlier days, cashew processing was mainly manual as it was a work of the artisan whose art of processing was the key to realize maximum value from the raw material, however, the raw cashew nut processing sector has seen many technological interventions and breakthrough in the various processing stages in Ivory Coast today. In Ivory Coast, the products of processing are cashew kernels, the fruit and the shell. The cashew kernel, which is the main product of cashew processing, accounts for roughly 85% of the value of the raw nut. Ivory Coast is a special case when it comes to the marketing of cashew products. Indeed, raw nuts account for almost 98% of the market, which is why Ivory Coast is the world’s primary exporter of cashew nuts. The marketing of cashew kernels is the main product of processing. And careful roasting of raw cashew nut for easy shelling but without having burning or breaking impact on kernel, peeling off the testa without using sharp tool to avoid the scratch on the kernel and grading the kernel based on the color and size are the key processing steps.
♦ Drying of raw cashew nut- The freshly harvested raw cashew nut are dried by spreading it on the drying yard under the sun for the period of 1-3 days depending on the moisture content. The nut making rattling sound is the symbol that the raw nuts have been dried properly. However, it is necessary to monitor the drying process as over drying of raw cashew nut may cause scorched kernel which may lead to higher breakage during shelling.
♦ Calibration process- It is also called size grading. At this stage, the dried raw cashew nut is separated as per the nut size. This practice is newly adopted by the processors as it is not only very useful in efficient utilization of shelling machine but enhancing the manual cutting/shelling rate also. In this process a calibrator/grader machine is used, the machine will have cylinder shaped sieves having whole of various dimensions/size and raw cashew nut passed through different wholes will be segregated and collected separately. In general, the processors would grade the raw cashew nut mainly into the three sizes, i.e. small, medium and big.
♦ Preparation for cashew shelling process- Steam cooking or roasting of raw cashew nut. Roasting is a traditional method and mostly abandoned now. In this technique raw cashew nuts is roasted on the steel/iron tray directly heated by the firewood where the shell gets burnt.
The raw cashew nut processing starts with cooking process. It helps in softening the outer cashew shell so that cutting or shelling becomes easy.
♦ Automated raw cashew nut cutting/shelling- At present, shift to mechanical from manual is now taking place at good pace. Availability trend of labor, plant capacity, investment capability and business models are the key factors determining the extent of shifting from manual to mechanical. In Ivory Coast, shelling machine has become fast moving equipment among the cashew processors. The large capacity operators are now shifting and new entrants are necessarily adding shelling machine in their plant. Some organic cashew processors are now completely using shelling machine.
♦ Peeling of cashew kernel- Peeling is the last process from where cashew kernel appears in ready-to-eat form. At this stage, all the inedible layers are removed from the kernel, the price enhancing value addition processes like grading, sorting, packaging etc start from here. The process looks simpler but a lot of care needs to be taken at this stage as around 60-75% of the processing cost is added up in the output recovered from here. Now peeling is done by mechanical process in Ivory Coast. In the mechanical process, the humified kernel is fed in the cashew kernel peeling machine in which it passes through the rotating cylinder fitted with brush where the testa comes out. The testa is then separated by blowing air flow generated through the compressor.