Cashew production and processing in Ghana is growing due to high demand from a flourishing export market.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: GH1205
Ghana Cashew Nut Industry is Growing
The fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe (nut) that grows at the end of the
expanded pedicel known as the cashew apple (oval pear-shaped). The drupe is what is referred to as the
Raw Cashew Nut (RCN). The RCN has within the outer shell the edible kernel or nut which is soft,
white and meaty in raw form. When roasted it changes color and taste. Salted, it appeals to the palate as
a most delicious nut. The cashew apple ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It
is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy,
but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport.
Ghana exports over 98 percent of its cashews as Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN). For MY2011 Ghana
exported 280,834 MT of RCN valued at US$ 379 million, up from 82,732 MT in MY 2010. RCN is
mainly exported to India and Vietnam for further processing. The remaining 2 percent is processed into
raw cashew kernels, which is exported in bulk. Very small quantities of the raw kernels remain in
Ghana, which then is roasted and sold domestically. Post forecasts a 5 percent increase in the
production of RCN to 49,000 MT for MY 2012, up from 47,000 MT in MY 2011. However this
projection could be higher due to the movement of RCN into Ghana from neighboring countries,
especially the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, which is especially difficult to quantify.
Cashew production and processing in Ghana is growing due to high demand from a flourishing export
market. Production is mostly carried out by smallholder farmers (88%), who are generally organized
into associations. In MY2011, total raw cashew nuts (RCN) exports were 280,834 MT valued at US$
379 million up, from 82,732 MT in MY 2010. RCN is mainly exported to India and Vietnam where they
are processed into plain kernels which are then exported in bulk to markets in developed and emerging
countries. Ghana exports over 98 percent of its cashews as Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN). The remaining 2
percent is processed into raw cashew kernels and over 95 percent of raw cashew kernel is exported in
bulk. In 2011 RCN exports contributed to 6.1% of GDP and to 18.2% of agricultural GDP (Ghana
Statistical Service).Very small quantities of the raw kernels are roasted, salted/seasoned, packaged and
labeled/branded and retailed in the domestic market in Ghana’s hotels, supermarkets and restaurants and
retail shops. Domestic demand for cashew kernels is currently estimated at over 50 MT per year.
Post forecasts a 5 percent increase in the production of RCN at 49,000 MT for MY 2012, up from
47,000 MT in MY 2011. However, export data for RCN has been higher than actual estimated
production figures of RCN over the years. For instance in MY 2011, RCN exported from Ghana was a
record high of 280,834 MT although domestic production in Ghana was estimated as 47,000MT.
According to the Government of Ghana (GOG) sources, higher export numbers for RCN are due to
imports of RCN from neighboring countries, especially the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
Most cashew nut processing enterprises in Ghana are small-scale, processing less than 500 tons, with
only one medium scale (500-1000 tons) operation. There are no large-scale (more than 1000 tons)
Table I. Production of Raw Cashew Nut (RCN) in MT (2006-2012)
Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 *2012
Area (Ha) 59,000 60,000 66,000 69,000 72,000 73,000 73,000
RCN Production(MT) 16,152 19,254 22,526 26,925 27,973 47,000 49,000
**RCN imported 31,962 19,298 39,590 44,177 55,732 242,732 100,000
Total Production 48,114 38,552 62,116 71,102 83,705 289,732 149,000
Source: Cashew Unit - Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Technoserv, USAID West Africa Trade Hub
**RCN imported from Ivory Coast/Burkina Faso. .
Post forecast for cashew crop area in MY 2012 is 75,000ha, up from 73,000ha in MY 2011. This
increase is due to the GOG commitment to make land available to farmers interested in cultivating
cashew. The estimated crop area for the cultivation of cashew has expanded from 59,000 ha in MY
2006 to 73,000ha in MY 2011. Cashew is grown as a smallholder crop in Ghana and the commercial
plantations sector is very small. It is estimated that about 88 percent of cashew farms are owned by
smallholders, with farms ranging in size from a minimum of 0.8 ha to 3.0 ha. Large plantations account
for 12 percent of cashew farms and are sized between 4 ha to 40 ha. Cashew plantations are integrated
into the traditional mixed-farming system. During the first three years of ea new cashew plantation, the
actual area covered by the young trees is negligible, leaving a lot of space for intensive inter-cropping
with short cycle annual food crops.
Cashew Nut Production (RCN)
Post forecasts a 5 percent increase in the production of Raw Cashew Nut (RCN) in MY 2012 to 49,000
MT, up from 47,000 MT in MY 2011. This forecast is due to favorable weather conditions (adequate
temperature and timely rains) and continuous Government of Ghana (GOG) support for the cashew
sector. GOG sources indicate the government plans to more than triple cashew-nut production within
the next 10 years. The GOG sources indicated cashew yields could increase with the practice of
improved management practices such as regular pruning, selective thinning, effective farm sanitation,
pest and disease control, rehabilitation of old unproductive trees, improved cashew nuts collection and
more market information. Six years ago the GOG supplied producers with high yielding dwarf cashew
seed varieties from Brazil and intend to continue investigating Indian and Brazilian sources where
excellent high-yielding varieties are available.
Over the past few years RCN imports from neighboring countries (the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso)
have increased, contributing to increased total RCN production in Ghana. In MY 2011 the total RCN
production in Ghana hit a record high at 289,000MT due to imports of over 242,000MT.
Although the cashew tree can withstand high temperatures, a monthly mean temperature of 25 °C is
regarded as optimal. High temperatures lead to early flowering. In Ghana cashew trees blossom
between November and January when the weather is dry and temperatures are high. A dry spell during
flowering and fruit setting ensures a better harvest. Cashew trees cannot withstand too much rainfall.
Cashew trees grow best in most parts of Ghana where the average annual rainfall is 1000-1500 mm per
year. Cashews are not grown in the Western region of Ghana due to its higher rainfall. Cashew yields
drop after heavy rains at the blossoming and harvesting stage. Heavy rainfall during the flowering
season damages the flowers, as they become infected with mildew and anthracnose. Also, rainfall
during the harvesting season can cause the nuts to rot or cause the fallen nuts to germinate.
Young cashew trees generally start bearing fruit in the third to fourth year after planting with average
yields at 90-100 kg/ha, gradually increasing to about 800-1,200 kg/ha of RCN in 10 to 12 years (grafted
trees and seedlings). In Ghana the average estimated yield for matured cashew trees is 200kg/ha, of
RCN per hectare among small holder producers. Low yield levels are due to poor varieties, old trees,
too wide spacing and poor management practices. However, through the use grafts from elite mother
trees, cashew plantations productivity could potentially be raised from the present level of 200kg to
about 800kg/ha. Currently, the higher average yields of 350kg/ha to 650kg/ha has been estimated
(MOFA sources) for RCN obtained from improved seedlings/grafted types planted on commercial
plantations. Although the cashew tree can reach an age of 50 to 60 years, most trees produce high yields
of nuts for the first 15 to 20 years after which yields start to drop.
The fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe (nut) that grows at the end of the
expanded pedicel known as the cashew apple (pear-shaped). The drupe develops first on the tree, and
then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. The drupe is what is referred to as the Raw
Cashew Nut (RCN). The RCN has within the outside shell the edible kernel or nut which is soft, white
and meaty. The cashew apple ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It is edible,
and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin
is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport.
The major challenges in the cashew sector are: a lack of improved seed varieties, high incidence of
insect pests and diseases (mildew and anthracnose), weak extension services, and weak farmers’
associations. Ghana has no seed company that produces and supplies cashew seed/grafted seedlings.
The varieties currently grown by the farmers are unknown as the acquisition and distribution are
through farmer to farmer exchange, generally using stock from old plantations. There is also the lack of
access to land for expansion of the cashew crop.
Table 2. Raw cashew processed in MT 2006-2012
Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 *2012
RCN processed(MT) 152.15 254.32 526.08 925.43 973.46 9,000 9,000
Kernels produced(MT) 30.47 46.35 86.66 182.33 392.13 1,900 2,000
Source: Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Technoserv, Ghana Shippers Council.
Processing of RCN involves recovery of the edible meat portion, (the kernels) from RCN by
manual/mechanical means. It includes cleaning, moisture conditioning, roasting, shelling, drying,
peeling, grading, kernel conditioning, and packaging. Although the cashew apple is consumed to a
limited extent in Ghana as a fresh ‘fruit’ most of the cashew apples collected during the harvest are lost
because they are not processed.
Currently less than 2 percent of RCN produced is processed locally in Ghana. Post forecasts that RCN
processed in MY 2012 as 10,000MT up from 9,000MT in MY 2011. The RCN is processed to obtain
the cashew kernels (primary product) which are mostly exported in bulk. There are twelve (12) RCN
processing enterprises in Ghana, with an estimated capacity of 2,137 tons per year and they process
RCN to obtain, cashew kernels. According to MOFA at the end of 2011, these companies had the
capacity to process about 3.5% of all RCN exported. The majority of these processing companies are
small-scale, processing less than 500 tons per year and only one is medium-scale (500-1000 tons/year).
There are no large-scale (more than 1000 tons/year) processing plants. The medium size processor
produces almost all exportable supplies of kernels.
Kernels from small-scale processing plants are sold to local roasters for secondary processing. Less than
5 percent of the kernels produced are roasted and consumed in Ghana. There are twenty one (21)
cashew kernel roasting companies operating in different parts of the country. The kernels are roasted,
salted/seasoned, packaged and labeled/branded and sold in domestic market in Ghana’s hotels,
restaurants, supermarkets and in retail shops. Local demand for cashew kernels is currently estimated at
over 50 MT per year. During the cashew harvesting season (February-May) each year, the processing
companies ensure that substantial quantities of nuts (of the necessary quality) are procured.
Other products obtained from the processing of RCN apart from the kernels include cashew butter and cashew nut
shell liquid, which have industrial uses.
The challenges facing the cashew processing sector are: the lack of skill and the capacity to handle the
large volumes of RCN required for the export market, an inconsistent supply of raw cashew nuts, and
high transportation costs.
The RCN is collected and when roasted and salted, it appeals to the palate as a most delicious nut. The
cashew apple ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It is edible, with a strong
"sweet" smell and taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it
unsuitable for transport so most consumption occurs in nearby communities.
Ghana’s roasted cashew kernel consumption is gradually increasing. Local demand for roasted cashew
kernels is currently estimated at about 50 MT per year, while production is only about 42 MT (CDP,
2010). In Ghana the roasted kernels are usually salted/seasoned, packaged and labeled/branded as
cashew nuts. The roasted cashew kernels are mostly sold domestic market in Ghana’s hotels,
restaurants, supermarkets and mini marts and retail shops in the major cities in Ghana. The sale of
roasted cashew nuts out in the open market and on the streets is very limited. The cashew nuts are
generally packaged into 35g and 50g packs. Others package roasted nuts in jars. The retail price of a 50g
roasted and salted cashew nut package is GHC2.00 ($1.05). According to the “Cashew Processing,
Marketing and Consumption in West Africa” (USAID 2007) study the average retail price of locally
processed cashews is the highest in all cashews in the market place. If prices cannot be reduced
significantly, the local market for cashews will be dominated by imports.
Cashew apples and cashew nuts are excellent sources of nutrition. The cashew apple contains vitamin C,
calcium, iron and vitamin B1. The oily shell liquid contains 21 percent of vegetable protein. The
kennels have a higher percentage of unsaturated fatty acids. Although oil extracted from the shells is
caustic and can burn the skin it has industrial application. The cashew tree is said to purify the
environment by reducing the carbon concentration.
Trade (Raw Cashew Nuts)
Table 2: Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) exported in ‘000MT and value in million dollars
Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
RCN exports( MT) 48 38.30 61.6 70.2 82.7 280.8 200
Value in dollars 23.98 21.00 45.37 42.10 65.91 379.12 ----
Sources: Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Technoserv, Ministry of Trade, USAID(West African Trade Hub).
Cashew is exported in two forms as the Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) and the primary processed raw
kernels. Currently, Ghana exports over 98 percent of Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) that is produced. About
two percent is processed locally into raw kernels of which over 95 percent is also exported. Ghana in
MY2011, exported raw cashew nuts (RCN) at a record high of 280,834 MT valued at US$ 379 million
up from 82,732 MT in MY 2010. However the local RCN in MY 2011 was 47,000MT which is lower
than the RCN exported due to cross border trading between Ghana and neighboring countries (Ivory
Coast and Burkina Faso). Post forecasts RCN exports in MY 2012 as 200,000MT down from
280,000MT in MY 2011 due to the uncertainty of movement of RCN into Ghana. It is possible that
trading of RCN between Ghana and its neighboring countries will continue at similar levels but could
The quality of RCN required is not clearly defined. It is expected that high quality nuts should 1) be free
from disease and pests; 2) have proper post harvest handling (e.g. drying and storage) and 3) been properly
graded for quality. To export cashews one the Ghana Cocoa Board Quality Assurance Certificate is required.
There is however, no price regulation, nor export tax on raw cashew nuts and raw kernels.
RCN trade occurs between February and May of each year, without much structured organization. Since
this is an activity restricted to only four months in the year, there are no exclusive traders for raw
cashew nuts. Presently there are 13 cashew buying companies in Ghana, nine of these are local
companies, and four are foreign mainly Indian.
Flow Chart of Marketing Channels in the Cashew trade
Source: Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Technoserv, Ministry of Trade, West African Trade Hub
The marketing channel of RCN consists of producers, village merchants/agents and exporters. The local
agents of exporting companies purchase RCN and raw kernels from designated GOG marketing centers
at agreed prices. The agents also buy RCN directly from known cashew farming communities. The
buying companies/agents then sell the RCN and the raw kernels directly to the few exporters available.
RCN is mainly exported to India and Vietnam where it is processed into plain kernels which are then re-
exported in bulk to markets in developed and emerging countries. Often, there are other intermediaries
or agents between traders, exporters and processing companies who provide information services and
make deals. These middlemen play an important role in the marketing of RCN, and are seen as reducing
the margins for cashew farmers.
Table 3. Producer and export price in USD per MT
YEAR Average producer price of RCN/Ton in US Range of International Export Price
2006 $194.7 $500-$800
2007 $168.4 $550-$600
2008 $247.4 $700-$900
2009 $262 $500-$600
2010 $526 $800-$1000
2011 $736.8 $1300-$1400
Source: Ministry of Food and Agriculture
Prices of RCN and raw kernels vary widely from place to place, from season to season, and even within
the same season. The producer price is a function of many factors, the most important of which are
international cashew supply and demand dynamics, domestic market conditions, as well as the efficacy
of the regulatory mechanism and the tax/levy structure for the agricultural sector (MOFA CDP report
2010). Cashew pricing at the farm gates and village markets is largely determined by buyers. Farmers
are unable to negotiate prices with traders who come to their village. They can only decide whether or
not to sell at the price offered. However the average producer price of RCN has steadily been increasing
in the last few years. In 2011 the average producer price for RCN per MT was US$ 736.8 about 28.6
percent increases in 2010. Similarly the export price has also been growing and in 2011 the export price
for RCN per MT ranges between $1300 and $1400. The average producer and export prices of raw
kernels are similar to that for RCN.
The Government of Ghana (GOG) established the Cashew Development Project (CDP) which
commenced in 2001 and operated for six years, with the aim of improving and increasing cashew
production in Ghana. The project was financed with a loan of $12.83 million sourced from the African
Development fund. The project provided extension and training in improved crop management
practices and provided credit to producers. In addition other institutions supported by donors also
complemented the GOG efforts by providing training on improved cashew production management, and
business management to producers and extension workers. These other institutions include the USAID-
West African Trade Hub; Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC); USAID-Trade and Investment
Program for a Competitive Export Economy (TIPCEE); African Cashew Alliance (ACA); Advent
Development Relief Agency (ADRA); and Technoserve. Through collaboration between CDP, ADRA
and TIPCEE, cashew farms are being mapped using Geographic Information Systems technology. This
farm mapping is primarily aimed at facilitating extension delivery and forecasting yields.
Very little research has been undertaken on cashew production in Ghana. However the Cocoa Research
Institute in Ghana (CRIG) has been mandated by the GOG to undertake cashew research. However,
some of the Universities and the Council for Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR) have also initiated
limited cashew research activities.
The GOG has categorized all export commodities into 2 main groups: Traditional Exports and
Non-traditional Exports crops. Cashew is a non-traditional export crop. The GOG requires that all
companies involved in exports of food commodities must register the company with the Registrar-
General's Department and the Ghana Export Promotion Council and obtain a number. In addition to
export cashew one requires the Ghana Cocoa Board Quality Assurance Certificate. There is however, no
price regulation, nor export tax on raw cashew nuts and raw kernels.
POST CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Russ Nicely, Regional Agricultural Counselor
Marcela Rondon, Regional Agricultural Attaché
Agricultural Affairs Office (USDA/FAS)
U.S. Consulate General
2, Walter Carrington Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
Telephone: (234) 1 460 3577
Mrs. Elma Ashitey, Agricultural Specialist
Agricultural Affairs Office (USDA/FAS)
Embassy of the United States
24 Fourth Circular Rd.,
Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Mr Seth Osei-Akoto
Cashew Development project
Ministry of Food and Agriculture
PO Box M37, Accra, Ghana