Cashew Nuts – the perfect cash crop

The cashew tree is native to the American tropics from Mexico to Brazil to the West Indies but has spread to many lowland tropical areas notably India and East Africa.
The tree is fast growing and spreads widely. The oldest and largest tree alive is in Brazil – it is estimated to be 1,000 years old and spreads over 1 hectare* (USAID Doc 2000)

Cashew is an excellent crop for smallholders in developing countries for many reasons:

Cashew apple and nut. The cashew nut grows on an apple with the nut contained within a shell. The shell contains a liquid which is corrosive so shelling the nut is quite an art.

Growing requirements
• High yielding plants can produce really good yields
• Thrives in relatively dry areas with low fertility
• Requires few expensive inputs

The cashew apple
The cashew apple is thin skinned so is unsuitable for commercial sale as it cannot be transported. However, locally it has lots of uses:

• When cooked and eaten does resemble apple
• Can be turned into juice, jams, jellies and alcohol
• Ant scorbutic (anti scurvy) due to its high vitamin C content
• Diuretic properties
• Used in the cosmetic industries as captures “free radicals”
• Ingredient of shampoos, lotions and scalp creams
• Discarded fruit can be fed to animals

The cashew nut shell
• Honeycomb structure contains liquid made up of 90% anacardic acid and 10% cardol
• Distilled oils used for:
o Medicines
o Treatment for timber to prevent termites
o Oil proof brake linings
o Ink
o Cement

The cashew nut
The most valuable part of the cashew tree is the cashew nut.
• The cashew industry bought in revenues of US$200M to Brazil (2005)
• Cashew nuts can be traded shelled or unshelled.
• Shelled cashew nuts are graded and the premium nuts can be sold for export
• Lower graded and broken nuts sold locally.
• Worldwide production of nuts in 2005 was 1.6M metric tonnes
o 50% were imported to the USA
o 25% were imported to Russia and former USSR countries
o The remainder went to EU and Japan

Other advantages of growing cashew nuts
Employment – in Brazil 300,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by either as growers or in the processing and production industries.

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Article written by Fiona Johnson

11th Jan 2012