“With inflation, people prefer to eat chips or peanuts rather than cashews”


Unshelled cashew nuts, in Abidjan, in May 2016.

QWhat better way to punctuate an aperitif than a comma-shaped walnut. Between pistachios and peanuts, the cashew nut has made its mark. Grilled and salted, it satisfies the most jaded palates. And vegans love it. Just finely chop the nuts to obtain the cashew milk and make a “falsemage”…

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Very often, the dried fruit has traveled a long time before landing on the supermarket shelves. From Africa, Asia, before joining the United States or Europe. But don’t say that it traveled in a nut shell… Indeed, the cashew tree took root in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Initially, cashew was planted to obtain plant cover in savannah areas and gradually it became a profitable crop. We are now the world’s largest cashew fruit producer, with 1.08 million tons”explains Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Ivorian Minister of Agriculture.

cash crop

“Overall, there has been a rise in power in West Africa, with a production volume that has increased from 1 to 2 million tonnes in ten years”, adds Pierre Ricau, analyst for the consulting firm N’Kalô Service. The cashew tree joined the cocoa tree, the rubber tree and the oil palm, all these plantations having the status of cash crop. However, farmers have not become rentiers. Far from it. These agricultural products, more than others, are subject to the vagaries of market speculation.

Read also: Côte d’Ivoire’s fight against cashew smuggling

The feverish surge in the price of cashew kernels, with a peak reached in June 2017, at more than 10,000 dollars (around 9,438 euros) per ton, has heated people’s minds. Everyone wanted to make butter with the fat-rich nut. The ace. The Covid crisis has shaken the coconut tree.

“In March 2020, at the start of Covid, the slowdown in imports from Western countries caused a first collapse in prices, which fell from 7,000 to 5,000 dollars per ton. Then, in mid-2021, prices rose to $6,300 per ton, with supply disruptions linked to maritime freight problems”says Mr. Ricau.

After this surge, the markets started to fall again. The ton of cashew fruit is currently trading at nearly $5,300. The cashew tree is ducked. As a result, the Ivorian state has set a minimum price for planters of 315 CFA francs (0.48 euros) in 2023. To be compared to the 500 CFA francs per kilo paid in 2018. “Consumption has stagnated or even decreased in the United States and Europe. With inflation, people would rather eat crisps or peanuts than cashews”, explains Mr. Ricau. Knowing that if India remains the first country to eat this dried fruit, the United States and Europe now complete the podium.

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