As world's top exporter of cashews, Cote d'Ivoire stands to benefit from economic opportunities

Among its many high-value cash crops, Côte d’Ivoire’s cashew sector stands out as particularly high-potential, with the country reaching record production in 2015, beating India to become the world’s top exporter. Bolstered by rising global demand and strong market prices, the sector is set for another strong year in 2017 as the government ramps up efforts to increase domestic processing and boost value-added production through incentives aimed at attracting new investment.

Production Spike

Cashew trees are not native to Côte d’Ivoire and were first imported in the 1960s as part of an effort to fight deforestation and desertification. The industry has grown in leaps and bounds since commercial production began in the 1990s, and today it employs an estimated 250,000 people directly at 20 separate cooperatives, while a further 1.5m citizens are indirectly dependent on income from cashew growing. Côte d’Ivoire’s cashew production has soared since 1990, when annual production stood at just 6300 tonnes, rising to hit 335,000 tons in 2008 and a record 625,000 tonnes during the first growing season of 2015. By the end of 2015 Côte d’Ivoire had exported 702,510 tonnes of cashew nuts, allowing it to surpass India for the first time to become the world’s top exporter. The country’s national marketing board, the Cotton and Cashew Council (Conseil Coton Anacarde, CCA), projected total exports had hit 725,000 tonnes in 2016, although adverse weather conditions may have reduced the final harvest numbers.

Demand, Prices & Taxes

Most cashew nuts are exported to India, Vietnam and Brazil, and are used in everything from cosmetics and food to aircraft brake fluid. Meanwhile, the largest cashew importers are India, the US, the EU, China, the UAE and Australia.

Rising global consumption of cashews has led to unprecedented price growth, with Global Risk Insights, a UK-based political risk firm, reporting in December 2015 that the value of Ivorian cashew shipments rose by nearly 50% in 2015 alone, driven by rising middle class demand for healthier products, as well as rising demand in India, where the nut is used as a paste for curries, sweets and other culinary uses.

Although the government set a minimum farm gate price of CFA350 (€0.53) per kg during the 2016 marketing season, up from CFA275 (€0.41) in 2015, press reports indicated that buyers were paying between CFA500 (€0.75) and CFA550 (€0.83.) This is lower than prices paid in neighbouring countries, and growers in Côte d’Ivoire have called for higher set prices than the €0.53 per kg average paid in 2016. Smuggling is also a significant and pressing issue, with a CFA45 (€0.07) per kg levy on exporters rolled out in early 2016, leading to an estimated 40,000 kg of cashews being illegally exported in the same year.

Domestic Goals

Cashew production remains in its nascent stages in Côte d’Ivoire, with an estimated 95% of cashews exported raw to Vietnam or India for processing. Although some important international and domestic players including SITA and Olam have built processing facilities in the country, there is significant potential for expansion of value-added production, as evidenced by recent government moves to support investment in the sector. President Alassane Ouattara has announced plans to process 100% of Ivorian cashews in-country by 2020, similar to the 50% processing target set for the cocoa industry.

“For the production of 1 kg of processed cashew, 5 kg of nuts are needed. As a result, if local processing can be encouraged it will allow operators to profit from huge savings in logistical costs,” Adama Coulibaly, director-general of the CCA, told OBG.


In a bid to attract investment the government is offering incentives, including export tax exemption for any cashews processed locally. In 2016 the government offered a bonus payment of CFA400 (€0.60) for every kg of processed cashew exports, a measure which will be offered for the next five growing seasons, with the possibility of a two-year extension.


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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017

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