The cashew nut business in Nigeria is such a lucrative one. The fruit is delicious and it is made up of tasty nuts that are enjoyed all around the world. In Nigeria, cashew nuts are extremely popular. From being hawked along the highway by roadside vendors, to being on the shelves of almost every store you walk into, the popularity of the tiny snacks among Nigerians cannot be over-emphasised. Even in some corporate working environments, you can find a bottle of these nuts on the desks of workers who can’t help but take a handful of cashew nuts for a fast snack during brief recesses.
But that is not the focal point of the piece. The process of making delicious cashew nuts in Nigeria is the focus of this article.
The journey involves multiple stages of processing, each crucial in shaping the flavour, texture and quality of the final product. So, for those interested, it is time to get detailed and valid insights about getting into the business of cashew nuts in Nigeria.
Cashew seed to cashew nut processing
Cashew trees, known botanically as Anacardium occidentale, are widely cultivated in various regions of Nigeria, including states like Kogi, Ogun, Enugu, Kwara and Oyo. The cashew season generally lasts from February to June, during which the cashew nuts are harvested to be processed.
The process begins with the harvesting of cashew apples, which contain cashew nuts as seeds. Cashew trees bear both cashew apples and the nuts encased within. The CNSL should be handled carefully because it can irritate the skin.
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The following procedures are involved in the extraction:
The extraction of cashew nuts involves much care and effort. Each cashew fruit contains a single cashew nut, encased within a hard shell and attached to a caustic substance known as cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL). The CNSL can cause skin irritation and requires careful handling. The extraction involves the following steps
Cashew nuts have a hard outer shell that contains an irritant oil. The nuts are processed to remove the shells, which can be done manually or using mechanical methods. Manual processing involves roasting the nuts to soften the shell, followed by manual cracking and extraction. Mechanical methods include the use of cashew nut shelling machines.
- Roasting: The traditional method involves roasting the cashew nuts in their shells to soften them. The heat also causes the shell to expand, making it easier to remove. After roasting, the shells are carefully cracked, and the cashew nuts are extracted.
- Steam treatment: In modern processing, steam treatment is employed. The cashew nuts are subjected to high-pressure steam, which neutralises the caustic resin. This makes the shells brittle, and they can be easily removed without harming the kernel.
Grading and sorting
The extracted cashew nuts vary in size, colour and quality. Grading and sorting are essential steps to ensure uniformity and consistency in the final product. Machines equipped with sensors and cameras analyse the cashew nuts based on various characteristics such as size, colour and shape. The nuts are then separated into different categories, each destined for specific markets or further processing.
Peeling and cleaning
After grading, the cashew nuts might still have a thin outer skin or testa that needs to be removed. Peeling is generally done using mechanical methods or controlled abrasion processes that ensure the delicate nut inside remains intact. Additionally, the nuts are thoroughly cleaned to eliminate any remaining debris or contaminants.
The cleaned cashew nuts are sun-dried to reduce their moisture content. Proper drying is crucial to prevent mould growth and enhance the nuts’ shelf life. The drying process usually takes several days, and it is essential to ensure that the nuts are properly dried to around five per cent moisture content.
Final inspection and packaging
Before packaging, the cashew nuts undergo a final inspection to guarantee quality and safety. Any damaged or substandard nuts are removed and only the premium ones proceed for packaging. The nuts can be packaged in various forms, from vacuum-sealed bags to tins, preserving their freshness and flavour.
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How to run a cashew nut business in Nigeria
Running a cashew nut business in Nigeria can be a lucrative venture, considering that Nigeria is one of the world’s top producers of cashew nuts. To succeed in this business, you’ll need careful planning, market understanding, quality control, and effective marketing strategies. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
1. Market research and business plan
Conduct thorough market research to understand the demand for cashew nuts locally and internationally. Also, identify your target markets, whether it is wholesale, retail, export or value-added products like roasted or flavoured cashews.
Create a comprehensive business plan outlining your business goals, target markets, sourcing strategies, production processes, budget and financial projections.
2. Legal requirements and registration
Register your business with the appropriate government authorities. Choose a suitable business structure, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited liability company.
Obtain any required licences and permits for operating a food processing and export business.
3. Sourcing and procurement
Establish relationships with local cashew farmers, cooperatives or suppliers to ensure a consistent supply of quality cashew nuts.
Ensure that the cashew nuts you source meet international quality standards as this will impact the success of your business, especially for exports.
4. Processing and quality control
Set up a processing facility equipped with the necessary machinery for cleaning, grading, peeling and packaging cashew nuts.
Implement strict quality control measures to ensure that only high-quality nuts make it to the market. This includes regular inspections, testing for moisture levels, and ensuring the absence of contaminants.
5. Value addition
Consider offering value-added products such as roasted, flavoured or packaged cashew nuts. These products can have higher profit margins and appeal to different market segments.
6. Packaging and branding:
Everyone likes a presentable and nicely packaged product, so designing attractive and informative packaging that showcases the quality and uniqueness of your cashew nuts is a really important key to take into consideration.
Invest in branding to establish a memorable and trustworthy brand identity. A strong brand can help you stand out in the market.
7. Marketing and distribution:
Develop a marketing strategy that includes both offline and online channels. Attend trade shows, food fairs, and exhibitions to showcase your products.
Utilise social media platforms and a professional website to reach a wider audience. Also. it is important to network with distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to expand your distribution channels.
8. Export opportunities
If you are interested in exporting, research the requirements and regulations of your target export markets. Ensure compliance with quality and safety standards.
Establish relationships with international buyers, brokers, and export agents who can help you navigate the export process.
9. Financial management
Keep accurate financial records of your income and expenses. This will help you track your profitability and make informed business decisions. It is important to manage your cash flow effectively to ensure that you have the funds to cover operational expenses and expansion efforts.
Also, as a cashew nut producer in Nigeria, you can secure financial aid from institutions particularly set up to render support to the Cashew sector. A perfect example is the recently established Nigeria Cashew Technical Assistance Facility (NICTAF), a new outfit from the Agribusiness Register that provides technical services to boost RCN production and processing, as well as brand development of kernels with Nigerian origin for the global market, among other services.
10. Continuous improvement
Stay updated on industry trends, technological advancements and customer preferences. Continuously innovate by introducing new products, exploring more efficient processing methods, and adapting to changing market demands.
Starting and running a cashew nut business requires dedication, persistence, and a commitment to quality. By following these steps and adapting your strategies as needed, you can establish a successful cashew nut business in Nigeria.
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