Tanzania's total cashew nut sales on the international market dropped 63 per cent to $196.5 million last year, compared with $529.6 million in the 2017 trading period, Minister for Finance and Economic planning Phillip Mpango has said.
Dr Mpango, who was presenting the 2019/20 budget in Dodoma, said exports fell to 120,200 tonnes from 329,400 tonnes in 2017. However, the price per tonne on the international market increased by 1.7 per cent from $1,607.7 to $1,634.2 in the one-year period.
Tanzania is among the world's largest producers of raw cashew nuts, having realised a total production of 313,826 tonnes in the 2017/18 crop year. Cashew nut is the lead cash crop export in the country followed by tea, coffee and sisal.
Cashew nut production in Tanzania during the last harvest season (2017/2018) stood at about 240,000 tonnes, out of which, some 213,000 tonnes were purchased by the government. About 90 per cent of the cashew nuts are exported in their raw form owing to the country's low processing capacity.
To grow local processing, Tanzania is looking for investors to add value on the nuts and produce products such as cashew nut cheese or butter, sweets, fruit drinks or distilled liquor, lubricants, waterproofing and paints.
Tanzania also wants investors for new plantations aimed at increasing production and total tonnage, suppliers of machinery, equipment, spare parts and investors to put up industrial parks and develop cashew nut processing industrial zones.
With support from USAid Hub, the Tanzania Investment Centre has drafted a strategy for cashew nut production and processing mainly in four regions: Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru and Pwani. The government has set aside a total of 538,993 hectares of land in these regions for agricultural expansion and industrial development.
In 2017/18, global production of cashew nuts stood at 3.9 million tonnes, led by Vietnam, India and Côte d'Ivoire, with 22 per cent, 19 per cent and 18 per cent of the world's total respectively. In East Africa, Tanzania accounts for 75 per cent of the region's production.
The search for processors comes at a time when the Tanzanian government is still holding a huge stock of cashew nuts estimated at 200,000 tonnes it bought from farmers in November last year after it failed to secure foreign buyers. After the debacle involving a little-known Kenyan company, Indo Power Solutions that, ostensibly took the Tanzanian government for a ride in a $180 million cashew nut deal, Dar es Salaam reckons that local processing will help secure a ready market for the nuts.