Cameroon’s cotton company (Société de développement du coton-Sodecoton), the agribusiness which collaborates with some 250,000 farmers in Northern Cameroon, could become one of the pillars of the national development strategy for the cashew sector, actually being elaborated in the country.
“SODECOTON has been considering the cashew nut sector for long, in order to diversify the revenues of farmers with whom we already collaborate, producing crops such as corn, groundnut or sorghum. But, we need an alternative crop in whose downstream value chain we can also operate,” Abdoulaye Abou Abba, director of agricultural production at SODECOTON, explained.
“We started with soya at first but, we were confronted with the fact that the oil derived from the crop failed to position itself in the market. Also, avian flu was a barrier to the commercialization of soybean meal. We therefore turned to cashew,” he continued.
In this regard, SODECOTON sent some staffs, for a study trip, to Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, two countries in which cashew does well.
Based the knowledge that will be acquired in these two countries, and also various expertise sought by the cotton company, it does not exclude a possible launch of its very first cashew farms starting from 2018.
SODECOTTON actually plans to develop 50,000 hectares over a period of 10 years, mainly in the Far-North. This equals a quarter of areas currently dedicated to cotton farming in the country.
According to the director of agricultural production, SODECOTON also wants to “take over the value chain with maximum processing”, a segment which could allow the Cameroonian agribusiness industry to exceed Côte d’Ivoire’s and Ghana’s, where cashew processing is still low.
“We have made enough progress with potential partner. We have a strategy, therefore the funds should follow,” said Abdoulaye Abou Abba, optimistic.
Moreover, he maintains, cashew farming and the actual context in the Far North are both attractive for investors.
He explained that there is first, the will of investors to participate to the reconstruction of the economic infrastructures in this region which was devastated over the recent years by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Next, cashew trees apart from improving farmers’ revenues and creating jobs, contribute to reforestation operations which are much valued by lenders.
Finally, cashew farming and processing give investors the opportunity to grow a parallel cash crop beside cotton, on which most of the three northern regions of Cameroon actually depend economically.