Interview: Massogbé Touré

How will the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) boost agricultural trade within the region?

MASSOGBÉ TOURÉ: All stakeholders involved in cashew nut production are aware that the AfCFTA agreement was primarily established to enhance trade among African countries and increase farmers’ income. An increase in trade and exports of agricultural products within the region would help increase domestic production, while also improving the quality of products over the next few years. The agreement will provide access to a much larger market with promising economic prospects.

This agreement will reassure stakeholders by maximising Côte d’Ivoire’s production capacity. However, it will be difficult to increase output if farmers are discouraged by low prices. Better incentives and public aid should be provided to encourage farmers to develop their products further and increase their income. Producers are also more likely to continue working efficiently and professionally if they receive fair compensation. The main challenge for the whole world remains ensuring sustainable production, as in Côte d’Ivoire, which pays 60% of the price to producers.

To what extent can investment in the processing of cashew nuts increase their export value?

TOURÉ: Africa produced 60% of the world’s raw cashew nuts in 2021, with Côte d’Ivoire being the biggest contributor to this output. However, less than 15% of this crop was processed on the continent. Côte d’Ivoire processed just 12% of the nuts, foregoing significantly higher earnings from value-added exports. Most of the processing is carried out in Asia, where manufacturing plants run at high speeds and capacity, transforming raw cashew nuts into ready-to-use consumer products such as snacks or spreads destined for European and US markets. Relocation of cashew processing to Africa could be a significant source of revenue for the region. The government has also adopted an action plan to provide the continent with modern industrial zones that meet international standards to support the acceleration of the economy’s structural transformation through industrialisation. The cities of Bondoukou and Korhogo, and the savannah region will be key areas for cashew processing with the establishment of large production units. This will allow operators who are interested in investing in the agriculture sector to locate in the area to contribute to its development. The objective is to enact the first pillar of the National Development Plan 2021-25, devoted to accelerating economic and structural transformation and maintaining high growth.

What steps are needed to modernise technological equipment in the cashew nut industry?

TOURÉ: The 2021 cashew commercialisation campaign achieved remarkable results. Côte d’Ivoire must capitalise on this to boost the processing of raw nuts by acquiring modern technological tools that will maintain these high production levels, competitiveness gains and improved quality standards. While these results are favourable for the world’s largest cashew producer, farmers are not likely to benefit as much from the growing market. Local processing is also limited to around 10% of total output. The authorities have deployed several measures recently, supplemented by an agreement signed in 2019 with 12 companies in the sector. Through these measures, companies hope to increase raw cashew nut processing to more than 400,00 tonnes over the next four years.

The president inaugurated the Cashew Innovation and Technology Centre in Yamoussoukro with an investment of CFA3.9bn ($6.7m). The aim is to increase the sector’s processing capacity to 170,000 tonnes by 2023 and capture markets beyond India, Brazil and Vietnam, where processing takes place locally. Côte d’Ivoire is being aided by the World Bank and the IMF to fund the purchase of technological tools and provide producers access to subsidies to strengthen local processing and improve the quality of the produce.