Cashew: Another Money Tree For Unending Income

The cashew tree, whose botanical name is Anacardium occidentale, is tropical tree that produces cashew seeds and cashew apples. The cashew apple is an edible pear-shaped fruit with the cashew nut firmly attached to the bottom. The regular tree grows to as high as 46 feet while the dwarf tree grows to 20 feet. The dwarf matures earlier and has better yields.

The cashew seed can be eaten or processed into cashew butter or cheese while the shell around the seed can be processed into derivatives used in lubricants and paints. However, the shell contains a caustic substance that can blister the skin of humans.

The seed is processed for eating by roasting, to destroy the inherent toxins. The outer shell is roasted under high flame after which the edible kernel is extracted. That is how the cashew nuts sold in bottles in the market, motor parks or along the road are processed.

The cashew apples are a light yellow or reddish fruit that can be processed into sweet and refreshing fruit drink or distilled into liquour. The cashew apple is rich in nutrients. For instance, it contains five times more Vitamin C than orange. It can be eaten fresh, cooked in curries, fermented to make vinegar or alcoholic drinks. It is also used to make preservatives, chutneys, and, In India and Brazil, it is used in jams. In South America, the cashew apple is used to flavour alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Cashew apple juice may also be used for manufacturing blended juices.

However, cashew nuts are more popular than cashew apples in many parts of the world that do not grow cashews, because the fruit, unlike the nut, is difficult to transport.

World Producers

Cashew is produced in about 32 countries of the world. Originally native to Brazil, countries like Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Vietnam, India, China and South East Asia are major producers. In 2013, Vietnam was the largest producer, with 1.1 million tons. But in 2014, CAte d’Ivoire became Africa’s top exporter with rapid growth of cashew cultivation in the country.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), global production figure for cashew crop was around 2.7 million tons per annum. The UN agency’s published figures indicate that production in 2005 was: Vietnam, 960,800 tons; Nigeria, 594,000 tons; India, 460,000 tons; Brazil,147,629 tons, and Indonesia, 122,000 tons.

The main producers of cashew nuts in Africa are Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique. Cashew grows very well in 24 states of the federation.

Growing Cashew Trees

Cashew trees grow anywhere in the wet/dry tropics. The trees grow like any other weed at an average temperature of about 10oC or 50F. They are draught-resistant and grow very well in sandy soils, even in marginal soils where other crops would not survive. It starts fruiting in about two to three years of planting. But grafted cashew trees can fruit in 18 months.

Planting Cashew seeds

Cashew seeds germinate easily. The seedling can be sourced from tree nurseries stock or grafted trees. If you have a grower in your area, you can get one or more from him. You can plant them by yourself in the ground or in pots. Keep them moist and they would sprout within four or five days. Plant the seeds when they are fresh. Heavy clay soils are not suitable for cashew. Cashew grows best in sandy soils. Sandy soils don’t hold much water and are generally not very fertile but the trees will still do well without additional attention or fertilizer. Plant them about 10 metres apart.


Cashew nuts are available in the market all year round. Only shelled cashew kernels are sold in stores, since the shell contains toxins that attack the skin. They can be stored raw, salted, sweetened or candied. The best are shelled nuts that are bright cream-white, compact, uniform and feel heavy in hand. They should not be cracked or have mould and spots and should be without any rancid smell. At home, store cashew kernels inside an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator to prevent them turning rancid. Under normal conditions, fresh nuts can last for six months.

Cashew Business In Nigeria

Nigerians are making money exporting cashew nuts annually. Cashew nuts are in high demand in China, India and other fast-growing economies of the world. Presently, the nuts are exported to India and Vietnam where they are processed and either consumed in those countries or shipped to the United States or to Europe for further processing and packaging.

The ton is the unit of measuring and exporting cashew nuts in commercial quantity. Thirteen bags make a ton and 30 tons make one truck or trailer-load of cashew nuts. Alternatively they are measured in weights with various grades.


You may choose to partake in one or all of the four stages in the business. You can be a farmer, an agent/distributor, supplier and exporter. To play as a farmer, you need land for a cashew plantation, which could be acquired in a number of ways, including rent/lease.

You can as well be a local agent and distributor, in which case you work with local farmers from whom you source the cashew nuts, or you play at the export end, buying from agents and distributors and exporting abroad. Most exporters of the produce are in Lagos. So if you decide to be a supplier, supplying to companies in Lagos, or if you decide to be an exporter selling overseas, you need to consider your location.

Importantly, one of the determining factors is finance. Export business requires a lot of capital. At least, you need about N1.5 million to start.

Investors can invest in cashew apple processing into fruit juice drinks to take advantage of a lot of waste from farms. Ninety per cent of the apples are wasted annually because of the lack of processors and emphasis on cashew nuts. Investors are also needed in cashew nut processing. Many Nigerians focus on roasting cashew nuts and selling them on the streets instead of processing and shipping them abroad.


It is said that if you want to get to the mountaintop, you need expert advice from those who have been there. Experience is not always the best teacher. For instance, consultants like Mr. Sotonye Anga, Chief Executive, Universal Quest Nigeria, are experts in cashew export business in Nigeria. Similarly, Mr. Titi Olukayode, Chief Executive, Centre for Trade and Export Development, is an expert who can put you through the paces in beginning your own cashew export business.

You can also join cashew associations in Nigeria to tap from information sharing among members.

Above all, conduct market research, don’t just plunge into the business, to keep from losing money. Consult seasoned cashew nut exporters for information about the business, especially about start-up capital, how to find suppliers, foreign buyers and how to process and package your cashew nuts for export and how to ensure quality control, among others. You also need information on pricing, transportation and packaging. Go for training.

Cashew has economic and nutritional value. Cashew business has created many millionaire Nigerians. Now that the Nigerian government and the private sector are promoting diversification of the economy through agriculture, farmers are encouraged to increase local cultivation of cash crops such cashew for export. You can take advantage of the times and venture into cashew business either as a farmer, supplier or exporter and earn foreign exchange. Whichever way, it is a win-win situation. Right on, you will succeed!

Source: Independent