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I am delighted to be here in your midst today to deliver the keynote address at this National Cashew Festival. Your decision to hold this festival is both appropriate in the choice of time and place. The timing is apt as Nigeria is currently passing through a period of economic transition, accompanied by dwindling fortunes from oil revenue. The choice of Ilorin is appropriate as it is situated in one of the agro-ecological zones notable for cashew production. With the global downturn in the oil economy, it is most fitting and proper for Nigeria to take a hard look at the non-oil economy and begin to unlock the latent potential in it. Thankfully, Nigeria is blessed with abundant non-oil resources, particularly in agriculture, and these have been playing a significant part in the economy of Nigeria in recent time.

Agriculture alone has been recorded as contributing as much as 42 per cent to Nigeria’s annual GDP, and agricultural commodities traded at high volume in the export market contribute a significant part of this. Unlike the oil and gas sector that is an industry restricted to a small part of the country, employing a very tiny population all across its value chains, agricultural commodities are produced in many states and involve a large population of actors, providing jobs, incomes and livelihoods across their value chains.

We are going through a period when we have to, as a matter of urgency, diversify our economic base, especially as our foreign reserve is less than US$30 billion which could hardly pay for our five months’ import bills.

Even more so is the fact that we no longer can afford to allow unbridled capital flight occasioned by huge imports putting pressure on our foreign exchange. The exchange rate of our national currency has undergone a free fall over a period of time. But every challenge comes with its own opportunities. We therefore need to urgently leverage on the prevailing exchange rates to boost our exports, which can help us generate huge revenues on the global marketplace. This calls for a diversification of our economy and a boost in export drive.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, one way of bringing the diversification efforts to bear is this administration’s emphasis on agriculture as a replacement for oil in foreign exchange generation. Your gathering here is clearly a sign of hope in the horizon as we don’t want to continue to lament over the spilt milk of the missed the opportunity of the past when we failed to use our earnings during the oil boom era to develop our agricultural sector. It is a fact that we are paying dearly for that now.

Let me announce to this assembly of distinguished Nigerians here today that one of the priority commodities for foreign exchange earnings for the country that is receiving attention of my ministry is cashew. Cashew is identified as one of five agro-industrial products, among 13 national strategic export products for Nigeria. It has a niche in the agricultural commodities produced and traded in Nigeria and is therefore a priority product of the Government of Nigeria. It is also one of the products with value chain currently being developed and supported by the Federal ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The petroleum economy overshadowed past efforts made to bring cashew to the limelight. But I announce to you today that we have reached a watershed, a turning point and part of a broader strategy to position Nigeria will involve cashew production, processing and trade. This crop will be one of the leading generators of revenue for Nigeria henceforth, beginning under this administration. Owing to its geographical spread and high potential for export, cashew is a priority product of the government targeted at increasing Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings from non-oil exports.

Cashew is grown in two thirds of the 36 States in Nigeria, in the eastern, western and middle belt states. These are comprised of Enugu, Abia, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Cross River, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun as well as Kwara, Kogi, Nassarawa, Benue, Taraba, Niger , Sokoto, Kebbi and FCT.

Nigeria is one of the top ten Raw Cashew Nut (RCN) producing countries in the world. With a production figure of approximately 150,000 metric tons, it is the third largest producer in Africa after Cote d'Ivoire and Tanzania, and seventh largest in the world.  With our vast potential, Nigeria can move up the rung of the ladder, becoming the world’s number one producer and exporter of the commodity.

Recent statistics showed that cashew export is the third largest agricultural export foreign exchange for Nigeria and second to cocoa as a foreign exchange earner. About $110 million was earned by exporters from cashew exports in 2013, which represents about 10 per cent of all agricultural export and we produced about 120,000 metric tons in 2014 and 150,000 metric tons in 2015, which can be doubled in the next three years. Last year we exported over N47billion worth of cashew. In terms of processing, Nigeria processes about 50,000 metric tons, with export destinations such as Singapore, India, Vietnam, UAE, Hong Kong.

Although Nigeria is a major supplier of raw cashew, very little has been done so far to optimise the benefits accruable from that commodity. In addition to increasing the potentials for foreign exchange earnings, value addition in cashew creates jobs especially for women and youth, reduces rural poverty thereby creating inclusive socio-economic development. It yields positive outcomes for the development of our cashew sector and non-oil exports.

Cashew is a game changer and every part of the fruit is money. From cashew, we can start earning huge foreign exchange, create job and wealth for our people. We can process cashew drink from the ‘apple,’ industrial oil from the shell and cashew butter from the nuts. As we emphasise value addition, processing and packaging for local consumption in addition to export of raw cashew nuts, we will encourage cashew juice production on commercial basis to provide the populace with its high level of vitamin C. While we target the export market as an avenue for foreign exchange generation, we will pay attention to the home market for the supply of nutritious products as well as boosting the domestic business community through economic activities tied to cashew.

The plan of my ministry is to plant about three million seedlings of improved cashew nuts every year for the next four years and this is expected to cover about 30,000 hectares of land in the cashew producing states. Farmers would be supported in rejuvenating their old cashew plantations by replacing the old plants with the improved varieties. We will go beyond the traditional business of leaving pollination to chances. To create additional business and increase yield per hectare, we will encourage bee keeping in cashew plantations by introducing bee hives. It has been recorded that bees can increase the productivity of cashew by about 30 per cent through active pollination

Farmers would be taught how to keep bees in specialised hives within their plantations.. The huge amount we spend on importing honey, which are often of doubtful quality, could be saved for the cashew farmers. These will give a boost to honey production while keeping the bees busy pollinating the cashew flowers, leading to a reduction in flower abortion in our cashew farms. We will like to extend the commercial bee pollinators to other tree crop plantations. The unemployed youths will be encouraged to participate in the bee keeping and cashew production as a business.

Partnership among key ministries departments and agencies involved in cashew at various levels of the value chains need to be stronger and a stronger synergy needs to be built to bring about a robust contribution to the roadmap for economic diversification of the federal government. Our road map will align policies from my ministry with those of other ministries, departments and agencies and will put the private sector players at the very centre and Nigeria’s revenue drive will be considered crucial.

We need to address issues that relate to its standards and quality and interventions will be needed in the area of farm-level support for farmers; food safety and quality standards; market development and promotion. We will pay attention to incentive support for the cashew industry through advocacy and public-private sector working group, trade information and statistics generation and production of relevant market intelligence reports and statistical materials for relevant stakeholders.

Development of Cashew is part of the road map my ministry is putting in place. Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), an institute with national mandate on cashew, will be given adequate support to conduct result-based research on cashew in the areas of increase in productivity, reduction of gestation period and product development. The irony of cashew is that our local variety is a prolific producer, out-yielding the Brazilian varieties but does not attract good price in the international market. CRIN will be given a marching order to improve our landrace by improving the size and quality of the nuts.

In conclusion, I assure you that my ministry will work hard on development of National Cashew Policy for Research and Development, which, among other things, will (i) Promote Nigerian cashew gene-pool (ii) Establish cashew seed garden centres to make improved seeds readily available (iii) Conduct periodic national cashew survey (iv) empower youth for cashew-based agriculture and (v) Support the establishment of a well-structured and organised market.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me congratulate the organisers of this event for their efforts. This is a demonstration of the fact that public-private partnership is necessary for us to take agriculture to where it should be. Government alone cannot do it all. I want to assure you that all the key stakeholders, especially the National Cashew Association of Nigeria are going to be involved for the actualisation of this vision and my office will stand by you always.


Thank you and God bless.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, OFR           February, 2016

-Admin   -Sun, 06 Nov 2016  Read (837) times  

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