West Africa is poised to be the next largest exporter of cashew kernels to the U.S. market through a $3 million co-investment partnership between the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) and Red River Foods (RRF), a leading global supplier of plant-based food. This partnership builds on the U.S. Government’s Prosper Africa initiative to increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa, as nearly $32 million in exports are anticipated from activities to boost the production and processing of this valuable commodity.
According to RRF, which sources cashews from West Africa, the region currently produces 1.8 million metric tons (MTs) annually. While this figure may be impressive, it is still below the volume of cashews grown and processed in Vietnam and India, whose economies have benefited significantly from meeting the rising global demand for cashews. Nevertheless, West Africa has the capability to compete with the other world leaders thanks to its growth potential and strong labor force.
“Our mission is to sustainably source the highest quality products from around the world. This project is a natural extension of our current integration along the entire supply and value chain,” said Dan Phipps, CEO of RRF.
In support of the project, RRF will use its $3 million Trade Hub grant in tandem with its own resources to expand and establish exports of cashews sourced from 10,950 farmers, processors, and suppliers working in the countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Benin. These value chain actors will benefit from having a steady, higher income thanks to working directly with RRF, with an estimated $27 million in sales to be earned collectively within the partnership’s 3-year timeframe.
Additionally, RRF community representatives and monitoring and evaluating officers will receive technical assistance and training in good agricultural practices (GAP) and then transfer that knowledge through training to communities. A lack of training has led to poor cashew yields, post-harvest losses, and lower farmer incomes relative to cashew farmers in Southeast Asia. With this project, GAP competencies amongst the project’s communities will greatly increase.
Another core aim of this project is to increase the volume of cashews processed in West Africa. Currently, more than 90 percent of raw cashews grown in the region are sent outside of Africa for processing due to a lack of technical knowledge, poor processing infrastructure, and regulatory hurdles. To counter this, RFF will build a cutting-edge cashew processing facility in Côte d'Ivoire from which farmers’ cashews will be processed before being shipped to RRF’s value-addition facility in the United States.
By the project’s end, RRF expects to export an additional 10,664 MTs of West African raw cashew nuts and 668 MTs of processed cashews beyond current levels, creating sustainable sales for West African smallholders and firms well beyond the life of the project. At least 482 jobs will be created through all project activities.
“The Trade Hub was created to help support ambitious, forward-thinking initiatives like this,” said Michael Clements, Trade Hub’s Chief of Party. “We hope to soon see ‘Made in West Africa’ printed on cashew products bought throughout the United States thanks to this partnership with Red River Foods.”
Red River press release caption 1:
After every cashew harvest season in Ghana, Red River Foods Ghana provides a bonus payment to cashew farmers to help them fund improvements to their cashew fields, purchase new farming equipment, or support education and healthcare for their families.