Cashew nut production in Mozambique this year reached 137,400 tonnes, exceeding the initial forecast of 120,000 tonnes and is already considered the biggest harvest of the last 30 years, announced the director of the National Cashew Institute (Incaju).
Ilídio Afonso Bande, quoted by Mozambican daily newspaper Diário de Moçambique, said that in the 2016 campaign, cashew nut production was only 104,000 tonnes.
The director of Incaju said that the increase in nut production was also due to the fact that rain distribution was more balanced, despite the tendency for shortage in the south of the country.
The rains also came at a favourable time, which allowed the transition to the flowering phase and efforts to promote production with the introduction of various plant varieties.
The northern province of Nampula accounted or 44% of overall production, followed by neighbouring Cabo Delgado (15%) and the central province of Zambezia (12%).
In the 1970s Mozambique was the world’s largest producer of cashew nuts with annual production of 216,000 tonnes.
The sandy soils and temperate climate of northern Mozambique create the perfect growing conditions for cashew trees. Mozambique has more than 32 million cashew trees, and nearly 70% are located in the country’s “cashew belt” that cuts across the northern provinces of Nampula, Zambezia, and Cabo Delgado. With the proper attention and care of the trees, average yields can be 11 kilograms of raw cashew nut per year, and the productive lifespan of a tree can reach upwards of 50 years. At these rates, cashew production is a business opportunity for smallholder farmers that lasts for generations.
Cashew production is the main source of income for close to 1.4 million rural producers in Mozambique. As one of only a few reliable cash crops that farmers can grow, cashew production is the economic backbone of thousands of communities throughout the country. Smallholder cashew producers typically manage small farms with 10 to 20 cashew trees mixed with other crops. During the harvest, which occurs from October to February in Mozambique, the average cashew farmer produces about 100 kilograms of raw nut for sale to nearby processing facilities. In 2013, total production of raw cashew nut was 64,000 metric tons, making Mozambique the second largest cashew producer in East and Southern Africa, and the 8th largest producer globally.
Over the past few years, one of the greatest challenges for Mozambique’s cashew industry has been declining productivity of the country’s cashew trees. Since the civil war ended in 1992 and Cyclone Naida destroyed 40% of plantation areas in 1994, very few new trees have been planted to replace those that were destroyed or had outlived their productive lifespan. As a result, yearly yields in the country’s cashew producing regions have been well below their potential. Production is now being revitalized, however, through new planting initiatives and distribution of seedlings, as well as farmer extension programs and improved input delivery systems.
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