Madagascar: the cashew nut sector in search of a new lease of life

The Big Island exports on average just under 10,000 tons of raw cashew nuts per year.

(illustrative image) © Cristiano Almeida / Getty Images/EyeEm

Text by: Laetitia Bezain Follow

4 mins

Madagascar aims to revive the cashew nut sector.

In the north of the island, which concentrates the majority of the plantations, the collection and marketing campaign has just ended.

The Big Island exports on average just under 10,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts per year, mainly to India, which then processes them.

For two years, the NGO Nitidae has been trying to breathe new life into production and renew aging plantations.

Christian Olivier Mahefa is the coordinator of the Madacana project, which supports 1,500 producers in the Ambilobe district.


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RFI: The cashew nut sector has been on its own since the 1970s, what are the main challenges for the Big Island to catch up?

Christian Olivier Mahefa:

The challenge is to improve the quantity and quality of cashew nuts.

Today, most of the 11,000 hectares of cashew trees in the Diana region are old and date back to 1968. We have trained producers in good agricultural practices, in maintaining their fields and, here, we are starting to see the quality of the raw cashew nut product.

We were able to reforest 317 hectares of cashew trees and, this year, we are going to reforest 15,000 trees.

I would say that in the next three years, Madagascar can be among the top 10 cashew nut producers in the world.

How can the Big Island hold its own against neighboring countries?

Cashew is a product with high potential for Madagascar and adapts perfectly to the climate and soil of the North-East region of the island.

It is an easy tree to grow - all you need is flat, sandy ground - and it starts bearing fruit after three years.

On the international market, there are only two countries, Tanzania and Mozambique, which compete with Madagascar during the harvest season on the raw cashew nut product.

As for the transformation into almonds, it is artisanal for the moment and the products are sold on the local market only.

I hope that investors will come to Madagascar to make this transformation at the industrial level.

What would it take to attract investors to Madagascar?

Incentives need to be put in place.

The State sees that it is a promising sector, but it needs to get much more involved in the cashew value chain.

Look for a policy to, for example, detax the value chain, reduce taxes on the export of the product and subsidize processing into cashew kernels, especially at the level of industrialization.

Has the revival of the sector, which began two years ago, made it possible to improve the standard of living of farmers


The objective of the project was primarily to improve the income of producers.

They are grouped in associations and in a cooperative and the aim is to connect them directly with the exporter so that they can sell their product at a better price.

It is already tangible in Ambilobe since, before, the price of a kilo of raw cashew nuts was 200 ariary, but today the price varies between 2,000 to 5,000 ariary per kilo (Editor's note between 0.45 centimes of euros and 1.10 euros) depending on the quality.

The harvest season takes place in September and this helps, for example, producers to pay school fees for children.

This can also be seen with processors since some can now buy land and build their house.

A situation that arouses envy...

Like all cash crops in Madagascar, the cashew nut faces a problem of insecurity, since people find that it brings in money.

Those who do not grow cashew nuts steal them from farmers' fields and sell them to collectors or sub-collectors at low prices.

They pick them when they are not yet ripe.

So it is poor quality that they are selling, which leads to lower price.

Since last year, producers have even been forced to sleep in their fields to protect their crops.

The gendarmerie carries out patrols in the district of Ambilobe, but as their manpower is insufficient, they cannot cover all the communes.

The challenges of the cashew nut sector in Madagascar

Laetitia Bezain


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