Prior to its decades-long civil war, Mozambique was the world’s largest cashew producing country at 240,000 tons per year and processed approximately half of all global production at 100,000 tons per year. By the early 1990s, following the end of the civil war, cashew production had declined to 22,000 tons of raw cashew, while factories lay dormant. Despite this downturn, over 40 percent of Mozambican farmers—or nearly 1 million households—grow cashew. It is one of the few reliable cash crops that farmers are able to grow in the country.
Given the global demand for cashews, Feed the Future, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has invested $18 million in modernizing the Mozambican cashew sector in an effort to reconnect farmers to the global market. With cashews accounting for two-thirds of U.S. shelled tree-nut imports, the USDA Food for Progress Program has fostered buyer-seller relationships with major retailers and trading companies like Red River Foods, Inc. (based in Virginia), Costco (based in Washington), and Whole Foods (based in Texas). The Food for Progress program, titled MozaCajú, works with all seven major cashew processors in northern Mozambique to meet industry standards for food safety and traceability and to obtain certifications in organic and fair trade.
According to the African Cashew Initiative, African countries currently account for around 45 percent of global cashew production but only process 10 percent. The Feed the Future MozaCajú project targets multiple points of the value chain with interventions to increase the quantity, quality and value of Mozambican cashew, while facilitating access to export markets. To date, the participating processors have sold over $98 million of cashews and have created an additional 700 new jobs for Mozambicans living in cashew-producing areas.
Mozambican farmers can already feel the impact on their farms. Through MozaCajú, large retailers such as Costco and Red River Foods are able to increase their focus on purchasing high-quality, traceable products. Farmers like Daniel Machono have risen to the challenge to meet these retailers’ higher standards in the consistency and moisture content of cashews. Mr. Machono has also learned from his nephew how to use SMS on his cell phone in order to communicate with the CommCare system, which gives processors more direct procurement access to him at harvest time. The system also provides retailers with the information they require on the origin of raw nuts. The increased income and assets generated from the project, coupled with newfound reliability in sales, has increased food security for the over 22,000 farmers participating in this Feed the Future-supported program.
This effort is revitalizing the value of Mozambican cashews on the global market. It also has led to increased farm gate prices (the price of the product available at the farm, excluding any separately billed transport or delivery charge) for the 22,000 farmers, like Mr. Machono, who have been trained through this program.