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December 13, 2009

Gambia hosts cashew sector meeting

Stakeholders in Cashew production in Africa are meeting in the Gambian capital, Banjul, under the auspices of The African Cashew Alliance (ACA). According to the organizers, the meeting which brought together participant from across the industry, seeks to sensitize buyers, traders, as well as processors of the commodity on the significance of the umbrella body of the African Cashew Alliance, in a bid to have Gambians join a national chapter of ACA.

Participants, who include local Gambian cashew farmers, are also discussing the possibility of the country to host the 5th annual ACA conference, slated for June next year.

Cashew nut is widely seen as a potential for economic growth and employment, increasingly seen as potential alternative cash crop on the continent. It production is striving well in a number of countries in the sub region thanks ideal climate with good drying conditions. African countries produce more than one third of the world's cashew. Ivory Coast is said to be the single largest producer of the commodity in the World, with an estimated 320,000MT being its 2008/2009 production. Guinea-Bissau and Tanzania also rank among major producers in the world.

The ACA has been plying a major role in ensuring the full realization of the potential by those involved in the fledgling industry. It has benefited from a funding by the US Department of State for Agriculture, to support capacity building in the cashew sector.

The US ambassador to the Gambia, Barry Wells, told the Banjul meeting that "To stress the United States government's efforts to continue in supporting this rapidly growing crop in Africa, USAID has recently given the ACA U$146,000 to improve access to finance for cashew businesses in the region."

The training, he added, is done with the goal of maximizing the income and capacity of 50,000 cashew farmers and their families.

Christian Dahm of the African Cashew Alliance based in Accra, Ghana, said their objectives, amongst others, are to increase farmers' income, process quality and quantity and to improve the regulatory environment, in a bid to increasing consumption. He described Africa as the biggest producer of raw cashew nuts, providing 300 to 1,200 all year round employment in rural areas.

Gambia based Indian diplomat, Ram Mohan, heads the country's ACA chapter and he disclosed that their primary aim is to build an alliance that would work together in a public-private manner, in an effort to add value to and promote African cashew nut.

He pointed out that a number of fourteen African countries produce close to half of the world's raw cashew, estimated at 700, 000 - 800,000 tons out of 1.8 - 2.0 million tons worldwide in 2008.

"The ACA promotes the idea that by adding value to the Cashew nut within Africa, it will provide the continent with more revenue. This can help in improving the African Economy and more importantly, in Poverty Alleviation", he said.

He added, ''The ACA endeavours to support the cashew sector to increase stakeholder income by adding value from the farm planning stage, seed and variety selection, planting, grafting, pest control, harvesting, post-harvest management, raw nut trade management, effective transport and storage, processing and eventually to the marketing and export of African cashew kernels and its by-products.''

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