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Entering the European market for cashew nuts

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Food safety certification combined with reliable and frequent laboratory testing helps create a positive image for cashew nut producers wishing to export to Europe. Sustainable production and the implementation of corporate social responsibility measures will help emerging suppliers gain an additional advantage. The toughest existing competitors for new suppliers of shelled cashew nuts are Vietnam and India. Vietnamese and Indian companies have the power to keep prices of cashew nuts relatively low because of their large-scale production and mechanised processing methods.

1. What requirements must cashew nuts comply with to be allowed on the European market?

What are the mandatory requirements?

All foods, including cashew nuts, sold in the European Union (the EU) must be safe. Imported products are no exception. Additives must be approved. Limits are placed on levels of harmful contaminants, such as pesticide residues and mycotoxins. It should also be clear from the labelling that nuts can cause allergies.

Contaminant control in cashew nuts

The European Commission Regulation sets maximum levels for certain contaminants in food products. This regulation is frequently updated and, apart from the limits set for general foodstuffs, a number of specific limits apply to contaminants in particular products, including cashew nuts. The most common requirements regarding contaminants in cashew nuts relate to the presence of mycotoxins, pesticide residues, micro-organisms, and heavy metals.

Mycotoxins

The presence of mycotoxins (aflatoxins, in particular) is the main reason why nuts may be banned on the European market. The level of aflatoxin B1 in cashew nuts must not exceed 5 μg/kg and the total aflatoxin content (B1, B2, G1 and G2) must not exceed 10 μg/kg. However, the incidence of aflatoxins is lower in cashew nuts than in other nuts, such as groundnuts. Most, but not all, sources agree that aflatoxin is not an issue in cashew nut production. The main reason for this is that their shells contain cardol, which inhibits the development of aflatoxins.

Pesticide residues

The European Union has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides found in and on food products. Products containing a higher concentration of pesticide residues than allowed are withdrawn from the European market. However, it is fairly uncommon to encounter excessive levels of pesticide residues in the cashew nut trade. This is because the shell, in which residues may accumulate, is removed before the nuts are imported into Europe.

The EU regularly publishes a list of pesticides that are approved for use in the European Union. This list is updated frequently. In 2020 and 2021, the European Commission set the following pesticide residue limits and effective dates for cashew nuts (see Table 1)

Table 1: The European Union pesticide limits changes relevant for cashew nuts during 2020 and 2021

Pesticide name

Residue limit

Adoption date

Triasulfuron

0.01 ppm

18.05.2020

Prochloraz

0.01 ppm

04.09.2020

Myclobutanil

0.01 ppm

02.01.2021

Napropamide

0.01 ppm

02.01.2021

Sintofen

0.01 ppm

02.01.2021

Chromafenozide

0.01 ppm

06.01.2021

Pencycuron

0.02 ppm

06.01.2021

Sedaxane

0.01 ppm

06.01.2021

Triazoxide

0.005 ppm

06.01.2021

Chlorpyrifos

0.01 ppm

06.01.2021

Chlorpyrifos-methyl

0.01 ppm

06.01.2021

One of the most recent changes adopted in 2020 is the level of chlorates, which is set to 0.1 for all tree nuts including cashews. Legislation on level of chlorates entered into force in June 2020. In the production of cashew nuts, chlorates are not typical pesticides but they can come in contact with cashews by the use of chlorinated water and through chlorinated detergents. Therefore, cashew nut exporters must control the use of water and detergents in their production facilities.

Heavy metals

In August 2021, the European Commission set the maximum level of cadmium for cashew nuts (and all other tree nuts except pine nuts) at 0.20 mg/kg wet weight.

Microbiological contaminants

The presence of very low levels of salmonella and E. coli in ready-to-eat or processed foods, including cashews, is an important cause of foodborne illness. Tree nut processors should consider salmonella and E. coli as major public health risks in their hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plans.

Tips:

What additional requirements do buyers often have?

Quality requirements

The quality of cashew nut kernels is determined by the percentage of defective produce, by number or weight, and by their size, shape and colour. The industry has defined several quality criteria but some of them, such as taste and flavour, are subjective and cannot easily be determined on the basis of physical characteristics.

Specific cashew nut quality requirements are established in several standards. The most widely applied standard in Europe is the standard established by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Similar but slightly different standards are also developed by several producing countries such as India, Brazil, Vietnam, Tanzania, Kenya and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The most important criteria used to define the quality of cashew nuts are as follows:

  • Class — The European Union does not have an official standard for cashew nut classification. However, the UNECE classification is widely used in the market. In this classification, cashew nuts are divided into three main classes: Extra Class, Class I and Class II, according to the permissible defects and colour of the kernel’s skin.
  • Grading — The European Union has not officially defined grading categories for cashew nuts. The most frequently used grading classification, also from the UNECE, corresponds to the United States cashew nut standards. According to the US standards, whole kernels are graded based on the number of cashew nuts in one pound (0.454 kg) or in one kilo — for example, 210 nuts per pound equals 465 nuts per kilo. Broken kernels are graded according to the diameter of the pieces.
  • Style and skin colour — In practice, quality and price are usually determined based on the characteristics of the cashew nuts, thereby combining the style (whole, splits or pieces) with the grade and look of the skin. The skin may be white, or have been scorched or darkened to some degree during the processing.

Food safety certification

Although food safety certification is not obligatory under European legislation, it has become a must for almost all European food importers. Most established European importers will not work with you if you cannot provide some type of food safety certification.

The majority of European buyers will ask for certification recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). For cashew nuts the most popular certification programmes, all of which are recognised by GFSI, are:

Please note that this list is not exhaustive and food certification systems are constantly under development. The majority of food safety certification programmes are based on existing ISO standards like ISO 22000.

Although different food safety certification systems are based on similar principles, some buyers may prefer one management system in particular. For example, British buyers often require BRC, while IFS is more common for German retailers. It should also be noted that food safety certification is only a basis from which to start exporting to Europe. Serious buyers will usually visit/audit your production facilities within no more than a few years.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Companies have different requirements as regards social responsibility. Some companies will require adherence to their code of conduct or to common standards such as the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) or amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative code of conduct (BSCI).

Packaging requirements

There is no general rule for the size of packaging for exported cashew nuts, but the most common type of export packaging is 10 kg to 25 kg polybags. In order to prolong the shelf life, bags are often vacuum-sealed by extracting the air and injecting carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Cashew nuts are also packaged in airtight tins.

The use of paper or stamps bearing trade specifications is allowed, provided the printing or labelling has been done with non-toxic ink or glue. The packaging is often formed in a cubic shape in order to efficiently use the pallet and container space. Dimensions can vary but all are compatible with standard pallet and container dimensions.

Labelling requirements

The name of the product must appear on the label and either “cashew nut kernels” or “cashew nuts”. Other trade names pertaining to form can be used in addition to “cashew nut kernels”. It is common for export package labelling to also include the crop year. Information about bulk packaging has to be indicated either on the packaging or in accompanying documents. Bulk package labelling must include the following information:

  • Name of the product
  • Lot identification number
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer
  • Storage instructions — storage and transport instructions are very important due to the high oil content and sensitivity to high levels of moisture, which can negatively influence quality if not dealt with properly.

The lot identification number and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer may be replaced by an identification mark.

In the case of retail packaging, product labelling must be in compliance with the European Union Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This regulation specifies requirements for nutrition labelling, origin labelling, allergen labelling and clear legibility (minimum font size for mandatory information). Please note that this regulation lists cashew nuts as a product which can cause allergies or intolerances and therefore allergen information must be clearly visible on the retail packaging.

Tips:

What are the requirements for niche markets?

Organic cashew nuts

To market cashew nuts as organic in Europe, they must be grown using organic production methods according to European legislation in this respect. Growing and processing facilities must be audited by an accredited certifier before you are allowed to use the European Union’s organic logo on your products, as well as the logo of the standard holder (for example, the Soil Association in the United Kingdom or Naturland in Germany).

Note that importing organic products to Europe is only possible if you are in possession of an electronic certificate of inspection (e‑COI). Each batch of organic products imported into the EU has to be accompanied by an electronic certificate of inspection, as defined in Annex V of the Regulation defining imports of organic products from third countries. This electronic certificate of inspection has to be generated via the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).

Sustainability certification

The two most commonly used sustainability certification schemes are Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance. Fair Trade international has developed a specific standard for nuts intended for small-scale producer organisations. This standard defines protective measures for workers in cashew nut processing facilities. In addition, the standard defines the terms of payment and FairTrade Minimum Price for conventional and organic raw cashew nut kernels from Africa.

In order to improve the sustainable production and sourcing of cashew nuts, a group of primarily European companies and organizations formed the Sustainable Nuts Initiative in 2015. The main objective of this initiative is to improve the circumstances in nut-producing countries and work towards sustainable supply chains.

Ethnic certification

The Islamic dietary laws (Halal) and the Jewish dietary laws (Kosher) impose specific dietary restriction. If you want to focus on Jewish or Islamic ethnic niche markets, you should consider implementing Halal or Kosher certification schemes.

Tips:

2. Through what channels can you get cashew nuts on the European market?

Cashew nuts are mostly used as a snack in Europe. They are also used as an ingredient in the food processing industry. The ingredient application market is much smaller but is growing faster than the snack application market.

How is the end market segmented?

The largest user of cashew nuts in Europe is the snack segment. Approximately 90% of imported cashew nut kernels in Europe are sold as snacks, predominantly as roasted salty snacks. Cashew nut kernels are also increasingly used by food processing industries as ingredients.

Figure 1: End market segments for cashew nuts in Europe

 End market segments for cashew nuts in Europe

Snack segment

In 2018, the retail value of the savoury snacks market in Europe amounted to around €17 billion, which is nearly 1.5% of the total European food and drinks market. The largest market for savoury snacks in Europe is the UK, with an estimated value of around €5 billion. The most consumed salty snack in Europe is still potato chips, but nuts (including cashew nuts) are increasingly consumed and perceived as a healthier option. Snack nut consumption in the EU increased by almost 80% between 2009 and 2018.

Within the snack segment, two different trends are influencing consumption. One is the development of different roasting flavours in order to diversify the offering and match it with different taste preferences. Another trend is the increasing range of unsalted and unroasted cashews as a healthier alternative to salted snacks.

Ingredient segment

The food processing segment accounts for roughly 10% of the European cashew nut market. It is expected that this food processing segment will gain market share over the next several years. Several important product launches and developments are described in the trends chapter of this study. The most common cashew ingredient users include the following:

  • The confectionary industry mainly uses pieces and bits of cashew nuts to produce chocolate snacks. Also, chocolate-coated whole cashew kernels are increasingly offered as a new product following successful sales of chocolate-coated almonds in several European markets.
  • The bakery industry uses splits and whole raw cashew nuts as spreads in cookies and pastries.
  • Cashew nut spreads are a new product in several European markets and are promoted as a healthier alternative to peanut butter. In addition, cashew nut butter is mixed with other ingredients to offer a wider range of flavours to consumers.
  • The breakfast cereals industry is launching new nut-rich granola products which frequently use cashew nuts.
  • Protein and fruit-nut bars are increasingly offered as an alternative to sugary and chocolate snacks. Cashew nuts are often used as an ingredient in those products as a source of vegetable protein.
  • Other segments cashew nuts are used in include: ready meals and sauces, such as pesto, where it is used as an alternative to the more expensive pine nuts.

Tips:

  • Monitor market developments within the European snack segment by visiting the news section of the website of the European Snack Association.
  • Search the list of exhibitors of the specialised trade fair Fi Europe to find potential buyers for your cashew nuts within the food ingredient segment.
  • Explore to the possibility of offering European processors high-quality pieces, in addition to whole kernels.

Through what channels do cashew nuts end up on the end market?

Specialised nut importers represent the most important channel for cashew nuts in Europe. There are also several alternative channels, such as agents, food processors or food service companies.

Important players in the cashew nut segment include roasting and packing companies. Some roasting companies have specialised in selling roasted, salted and spiced cashew nuts to packers in bulk. Some important roasting companies in Europe include Ireco (Luxembourg), Intersnack (Germany/International), Max Kiene (Germany) and Trigon (the UK). Many packing companies have roasting facilities in their factories, enabling them to develop different products which they can sell directly to consumer segments.

Figure 2: European market channels for cashew nuts

European market channels for cashew nuts

Source: Autentika Global

Importers/wholesalers

In most cases, importers act as wholesalers. They very often sell cashew nuts to roasting companies which process cashew nuts and package them for sale to consumers. Some importers also have their own processing and packing equipment, so they can also supply retail and food service channels directly.

Importers usually are usually quite knowledgeable when it comes to the European market and they closely monitor developments in cashew nut producing countries. Therefore, they are your preferred contact, as they can inform you in good time about market developments and provide practical advice about exports. Cashew nut importers normally import other types of edible nuts and dried fruit as well, so offering other products in addition to cashew nuts can increase your competitiveness.

For new suppliers, the challenge is to establish lasting relationships with well-known importers, as they usually already work with selected suppliers. Established importers perform audits and visit producing countries on a regular basis. Many new contacts find they must offer the same quality at lower prices than their competitors, at the start of the relationship.

The positions of the importer and food manufacturers are put under pressure by retailers. The higher demands imposed by the retail industry determine the supply chain dynamics from the top down in the chain. The pressure translates into lower prices but also added value in the form of “sustainable,” “natural,” “organic,” or “fair trade” products. As a result, transparency in the supply chain is needed. To achieve this, many importers develop their own codes of conduct and build long-lasting relationships with preferred developing country suppliers.

Agents/brokers

Agents involved in the cashew nut trade typically perform two types of activities. Agents normally act as independent companies that negotiate on behalf of their clients and as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. Typically, they charge commissions ranging from 2% to 4% for their intermediary services.

Another activity performed by these parties is the supply of private labels for retail chains in Europe. For most developing country suppliers, it is very challenging to participate in the demanding private label tendering procedures. For these services, some agents, in cooperation with their cashew nut suppliers, participate in procurement procedures put out by the retail chains.

Cashew nut agents in the leading European markets include the following: Hpm Warenhandelsagentur (Germany), MW Nuts (Germany), Global Trading (Netherlands), QFN (Netherlands), and Nutfully (Belgium).

Retail channel

Retailers rarely buy directly from developing country exporters. However, certain developing country exporters (processors) package their products directly for private label or even their own label brands. Recently, the retail sector has become increasingly polarised, seeing a shift towards either the discount or the high-level segment. Consolidation, market saturation, fierce competition and low prices are key characteristics of the European retail food market.

The leading food retail companies in Europe differ per country. The companies with the largest market shares are Schwartz Gruppe (Lidl and Kaufland brands), Carrefour, Tesco, Aldi, Edeka, Leclerc, Metro Group, Rewe Group, Auchan, Intermarché and Ahold (Delhaize, Albert Heijn and several other brands).

During 2020, online sales increased significantly for all retailers. This is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many consumers must remain in their homes and avoid going out for shopping. Online sales have influenced logistics and delivery efficiency of the large retail chains. Online sales are a potential threat for small shops.

Foodservice channel

The foodservice channel (hotels, restaurants and catering establishments) is usually supplied by specialised importers (wholesalers). The foodservice segment often requires specific packaging of cashew nuts in weights of 1kg to 5kg, which is different from the requirements for bulk or retail packaging.

World cuisines, healthy food and food enjoyment are the major driving forces in the foodservice channel in Europe. The fastest-growing business types tend to be new (healthier) fast food, street food and pop-up restaurants, as well as restaurants serving international cuisines and sandwich bars.

Tips:

  • Search the list of members of the European Trade Federation for Dried Fruit and Edible Nuts (FRUCOM) to find buyers from different channels and segments.
  • Understand the pressure from retailers for sustainable products and increase your competitiveness by investing in different certification schemes related to CSR, organic foods or food safety. Having food safety certification is the minimum requirement if you want to tap into the retail segment.
  • Consider joining forces with other producers from your country in order to offer sufficient volumes and be more competitive.

What is the most interesting channel for you?

Specialised importers seem to be the most useful contact if you aim to export cashew nuts to the European market. This is specifically relevant for new suppliers as supplying the retail segment directly is very demanding and requires considerable investments in the area of quality and logistics.

However, packing for private labels may be an option for the well-equipped and price competitive producers. Still, private label packing is often done by importers that enter into contracts with retail chains in Europe. In addition, in order to have full control of the processing, it is easier to roast and pack cashew nuts for the snack segment within Europe. As the cost of labour in Europe is increasing, cashew nut importers sometimes search for more cost-effective roasting operations, in Eastern Europe or developing countries, for instance.

3. What competition do you face on the European cashew nut market?

Which countries are you competing with?

Vietnam and India are the key competitors for emerging suppliers of cashew nuts to Europe. These two countries supply 85% of all cashews to Europe, followed by Brazil which has a market share of approximately 4%. Also, Vietnam and India process more than 80% of the world’s total cashew crops. African countries, although still very small suppliers to Europe, are gaining market share. In 2019, no African country had more than a 1% market share in Europe; in 2020, Ivory Coast increased its share to 2.3% and Burkina Faso to 1.4%. As there are a lot of initiatives in Africa to increase processing capacity, it is expected that this trend will continue.

Vietnam by far the leading supplier of cashew nuts to Europe

Vietnam is the leading exporter of cashew nuts to Europe and the rest of the world. In terms of tonnes of in-shell cashew nuts, Vietnam actually produces less than Ivory Coast and India. In 2020, Vietnam produced around 103 thousand tonnes of shelled cashew nut kernels, but exported 4 times more (around 408 thousand tonnes). This is explained by the installed shelling capacity in Vietnam which means a much greater quantity can be handled than for domestic production alone.

The Vietnamese cashew crop in 2020 is reported to be 70% higher than it was in 2019. In order to utilise its many shelling facilities, Vietnam imports in-shell cashew nuts from Ivory Coast, Cambodia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and other producing countries. It is expected that Vietnamese imports of in-shell nuts from Ivory Coast will gradually decrease, due to investments in processing facilities in this country. However, import from Cambodia is expected to rise. Vietnamese processors are increasingly investing in Cambodian production of in-shell nuts.

Most shelled cashew nuts (kernels) produced by Vietnam are exported, only around 5% is consumed locally. In 2020, Vietnam exported around 408 thousand of cashew nut kernels, with the United States as the leading export destination, followed by the Netherlands and China. Around 30% are exported to Europe. 40% of Vietnamese exports of cashew nuts to Europe go to the Netherlands. Vietnam handled the COVID-19 crisis very well in 2020 and 2021, and exports of cashew nuts continued without any significant problems, except for the rising freight costs.

The Binh Phuoc province accounts for 50% of Vietnam’s total cashew production. The harvesting seasons depend on weather conditions but frequently last from January to May. The practice of manually cracking has almost been eliminated in Vietnam due to unavailability of workforce. Instead, the in-shell cashews are cooked and then cracked by machines.

To maintain the leading position in the world’s cashew supply, the Vietnamese cashew industry receives support from various governmental and industry organisations. Investments in new cashew plantations and productivity are supported by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). In addition to the development of domestic production, MARD also cooperates with Cambodia to develop reliable sourcing for the domestic processing industry. The Vietnam Cashew Association (VINACAS) supports the development of technology and promotional activities, while the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency supports export activities.

India, the world leader in cashew nut production and consumption

With a crop of 166 thousand tonnes of kernels, India was the second-largest producer in the 2020/2021 season, followed by Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Tanzania. In contrast to Vietnam, India consumes large quantities of cashew nuts locally. According to the International Nuts and Dried Fruit Council, India consumes around 30% of domestic production of cashew nut kernels. Also, India is the largest world consumer of cashew kernels accounting for around 30% of the total world consumption. Domestic consumption in 2019 was estimated at 207 thousand tonnes, which is 49 thousand tonnes more than the second-largest market worldwide, the United States.

Production facilities are mainly located in coastal regions with Maharashtra as the leading producing region. Harvesting usually takes place in March, April and May. Although Indian cashew production continues to increase, productivity is still lower than in Vietnam because of the frequent use of manual processing. Unlike in Vietnam, the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 influenced the harvest in India. Due to lockdown measures, crop harvests decreased by 10 thousand tonnes but increased again in 2021.

The production and export of Indian cashews are supported by the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India. The Indian government supports efforts to increase the production area and the replanting of old trees. Still, the large processing capacities are larger than needed to handle domestic production and large quantities of in-shell nuts are imported from African countries – Benin, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, and others. The main export market for Indian cashew nuts is the United Arab Emirates, followed by the Netherlands, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Brazil

Brazil accounts for 3% of global cashew kernel production and 3% of global exports. Cashew nut production in Brazil is concentrated in the northeast of the country with around 95% of cashew nuts produced in the states of Ceará, Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte. Similar to Vietnam and India, Brazil imports in-shell cashew nuts from Africa in order to utilise processing capacities. A specific characteristic of Brazil is that it imports in‑shell cashew nuts only from Ivory Coast.

Total exports of cashew nuts kernels from Brazil reached 15.4 thousand tonnes. Due to its geographic location, Brazil exports significant quantities to the United States – around 30%. In 2020, 38% of Brazilian cashew nuts were exported to the Europe with Italy as the top export destination (1.8 thousand tonnes), followed by Germany (1.7 thousand tonnes) and the Netherlands (1.4 thousand tonnes). Export promotional activities are undertaken by the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (APEX Brasil). APEX Brasil arranges for national stands at European trade fairs and other trade events.

Ivory Coast, the world’s largest in-shell producer

Ivory Coast is the world’s number one producer of in-shell, raw cashew nuts, producing an estimated 900 thousand tonnes in 2020/2021 season. Ivory Coast does not have sufficient processing capacity for shelling, so the country exports most of its cashews, like other African countries, as in-shell nuts to Vietnam and India. However, Ivory Coast receives national and international support (including from CBI) and investments in processing capacities. Besides domestic investments, foreign companies also invest in cashew processing in Ivory Coast (for example from Vietnam).

Exports of shelled cashew nuts from Ivory Coast increased from 8.1 thousand tonnes in 2016 to more than (an estimated) 20 thousand tonnes in 2020. Still, Europe is not the main target market for cashew nuts, and Ivory Coast exports most of its kernels to Vietnam, followed by India. One of the reasons are investments by the Vietnamese companies, they import nuts from Ivory Coast for further processing, packing and re-exporting in Vietnam. In 2020, Ivory Coast exported 3.4 thousand tonnes to Europe, with Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands being the main target markets.

The Cotton and Cashew Board (Conseil du Coton et de l’Anacarde) regulates cashew production and marketing and promotes processing in Ivory Coast. The government supports investments in processing through various different subsidies. For example, it was recently announced that cashew nut processors in Ivory Coast will be exempted from customs duties and value-added taxes for processing equipment purchased in the next five years.

The COVID-19 pandemic did not seriously affect the production of cashew nuts in 2020 and 2021. The main challenges were logistical issues and delivery delays.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, production and processing of cashew nuts is increasing. In 2020, the crop of in‑shell cashews was estimated at 100 thousand tonnes and exports at 60 thousand tonnes (including some stocks from the previous season). However, almost all of these cashews were exported as in-shell nuts for further processing. In 2020, the key destinations were re-exporting and processing countries, primarily Ghana and Vietnam. In 2020, Burkina Faso exported 2.5 thousand tonnes of cashew nuts, with Europe being the main destination with an 85% share.

Within Europe, the main market for cashew nuts from Burkina Faso in 2020 was Belgium (945 tonnes), followed by the Netherlands (522 tonnes), Germany (390 tonnes), and Italy (100 tonnes).

The production of cashew in Burkina Faso is supported by the National Union of Cashew Producers (UNPA), the National Association of Processors, and the National Union of Cashew Nut Exporters. In addition, Burkina Faso is included in the activities of African Cashew Alliance (ACA), ComCashew and Self Help Africa.

Ghana, emerging developing country supplier

Ghana is the seventh-largest cashew nut producer with an estimated production of 170 thousand tonnes of in-shell nuts in the 2020/2021 season. It is estimated that Ghana exports more than 90% of its in-shell cashew nuts to India and Vietnam for further processing. Export of cashew nut kernels from Ghana is increasing, following investments in processing facilities.

European imports of cashew nuts from Ghana have increased gradually, from only 220 tonnes imported in 2016 compared to nearly 1.5 thousand tonnes in 2020. Still, Ghana’s share represents only 0.8% of total European imports. Within Europe, most of Ghana’s cashew nuts go to the Netherlands (40%), followed by Italy (28%), and the UK (12%).

The main organisations that support the development of the cashew sector in Ghana are the Association of Cashew Processors, the Tree Crops Development Authority, the Cashew Council and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority. Apart from the national support, the cashew sector in Ghana receives aid from international projects such as ComCashew, financed by Germany (GIZ).

Tips:

  • Visit VINACAS’ Golden Cashews Rendezvous event to meet producers and learn more about the development of the cashew industry in Vietnam.
  • Participate in the World Cashew Convention to gain insight into the global cashew industry.
  • Attend the ACA’s Cashew Conference to inform yourself about the development of cashew production and processing in Africa.
  • Visit the website of the African Cashew Alliance to gain a better understanding of African cashew-supplying countries.

Which companies are you competing with?

There are thousands of companies around the world that produce, process and export cashew nuts.  One company stands out, as one of the most important influencers in the cashew community. That company is Olam International, the largest cashew nut exporter in the world, which processes cashew nuts in several countries.

Olam runs more than 15 cashew processing facilities in Asia and Africa. In India and Vietnam, Olam uses fully-mechanised shelling facilities. In the supply of cashew nuts, Olam pays considerable attention to food safety. Olam also invests in sustainability through different programmes such as the Olam Livelihood Charter (helping smallholders and local communities improve their standard of living) and AtSource (making more transparent supply chains), or participation in projects such as the Sustainable Nut Initiative.

A quick overview of some leading companies per supplying country is given below.

Vietnamese companies

According to VINACAS, Vietnam is home to nearly 400 companies which export in-shell cashews and around 150 processing companies. The top exporter of Vietnam’s cashew kernels is Olam International, with around 10% of the total export share. However, Olam cannot simply be considered a Vietnamese company only, as it is a multinational (headquartered in Singapore) with cashew nut processing operations in several countries. After OLAM, the largest Vietnamese cashew nut processor is the company Long Son.

Long Son, is Vietnam’s largest processor with ten processing facilities across the country. Long Son is constantly growing as a result of mergers with and acquisitions of other processors in Vietnam. Moreover, Long Son owns several companies outside of Vietnam.

The other three exporters among the top five are Thao Nguyen (also famous for the production of cashew cardanol oil), Minh Huy, and Hoang Son 1. Other companies that are thought to be among the top exporters and/or processors in Vietnam are Cao Pat, Phu Thuy, Rals Vietnam (a subsidiary of Indian company Rajkumar Impex), Da Kao, Lafooco (part of PAN Food), Tanimex, Tan Hoa, Haprosimex and Hapro. Phuc An, My An Co, Tan Lon Group and Dan On Foods are also important processors. The remaining companies are much smaller as compared to the top exporters; the next 40 companies in the ranking account for only about 1% of the total export value.

There is a trend towards a concentration of the cashew industry in Vietnam. This means the number of processors is decreasing, and large processors are increasing their power. This is a threat for many small and medium-sized companies as some of them are disappearing from the market.

Indian companies

India is home to many cashew nut processing and exporting companies. Many of these are located in the Kollam (district and city of the Indian state of Kerala). According to India’s Cashew Promotion Council, more than 90% of exported cashew kernels are processed in Kollam. More than 150 companies are listed on the page of Kollam’s cashew processors. In addition, the Cashew Promotion Council of India publishes a longlist of some 190 exporters of cashew nuts.

Like Vietnam, Olam International is an important cashew processor in India. Other notable Indian exporters include Bismi Cashew Company (with seven factories and two packing centres), Fernandes Brothers (one of the leading exporters, in operation for several decades), Bola Surendra Kamath & Sons (a large exporter which also the imports almonds and pistachios to India) and Paranjape Agro Products.

The major trend in India is the investment in fully automatic processing facilities. Still, most cashew nuts in India are shelled by pedal-operated machines. However, many processors are switching to automatic processing lines. There is some sort of polarisation of the Indian cashew industry, where broken kernels are consumed locally while whole kernels are meant for export.

Cashew companies from Brazil

In order to utilise the existing processing capacity, Brazilian companies also started investing in production in Africa, similar to Vietnam and Indian companies. The largest processor is USIBRAS, with business units in Brazil (Nutsco), Ghana and the United States. USIBRAS processes over 35% of the Brazil’s total cashew crop (70 thousand tonnes annually). Examples of other Brazilian cashew companies are Amedoas, Cione and Carino.

African cashew suppliers

Olam International is the largest cashew nut processor in Africa. Aside from Olam, there are many other cashew companies that are increasing their exports to Europe.

  • Ivory Coast – Olam is the largest processor with a processing capacity of more than 40,000 tonnes per year. Other large processors include CILAGRI, SITA, FMA and Cajou des Savanes (CASA) followed by several other companies.
  • Burkina Faso – As in other African countries, OLAM is an important processor in Burkina Faso. The largest local processor is Anatrans, followed by several others. Organic importer and wholesaler Gebana, which is headquartered in Switzerland, was active in Burkina Faso for 12 years, but recently went bankrupt. However, in November 2019, Gebana announced the company’s rehabilitation and a fresh start of operations.
  • Ghana – The Brazil-headquartered processor USIBRAS also has a processing facility in Ghana. Another large Ghanian cashew nuts supplier is MIM Cashew

Tips:

  • Monitor activities of the Global Cashew Council to stay informed about the activities of the largest cashew-producing, processing and trading companies. You can also participate in the World Cashew Convention & Exhibition.
  • Participate in the VINACAS Golden Cashew Rendezvous to meet the leading cashew companies in Vietnam.
  • Take part in ACA’s annual Cashew Conference to stay informed about the cashew industry in Africa and to meet representatives of African companies.
  • Use the services of your national export promotion agency and actively participate in the creation of export strategies.
  • Regularly visit major European trade fairs to meet competitors and potential customers. ANUGA, SIAL and Food Ingredients Europe are just a few examples.

Which products are you competing with?

Cashew nuts have unique flavour. It is therefore unusual for buyers to consider alternative products.

Cashews are often consumed as part of a salted nuts mix. In such a mix, the proportions of the various types of nuts may vary and will in part determine the price of the mix. The nuts which are most similar to cashews in terms of flavour are probably peanuts, while in terms of popularity, almonds are the toughest competitor of cashews. Almonds, like walnuts and hazelnuts, are traditionally used as ingredient in confectionery, breakfast products, and as topping, more so than cashews.

One of the advantages of almonds is that they cost less than cashews. The FOB price of almonds is on average 60% lower than that of cashews. Additionally, the consumption of almonds is promoted more aggressively by the US, the leading supplier of almonds to Europe, than the consumption of cashew nuts is promoted by the leading cashew suppliers (India and Vietnam).

Tip:

  • Read CBI’s study on almonds to understand the almond industry and learn about promotional tools used by the almond suppliers.

4. What are the prices for cashew nuts?

Depending on the country, retail chain and brand, the prices of the cashew nuts sold to end consumers vary significantly across Europe. The prices of salty roasted cashew nuts usually range from €20/kg to €25/kg, while prices of natural unsalted kernels commonly vary between €12 and €15/kg. These price ranges do not tell cashew nuts suppliers a lot, as the final price is very different from the export price due to the addition of many other costs, such as transport, roasting, packing, sales and profit margins. The approximate breakdown of cashew prices is shown below.

Table 2: Breakdown of retail prices for cashew nuts

Steps in the export process

Price breakdown

Farmers, traders and shipping

29%

Shelling and processing

16%

Shipping and warehousing

3%

Roasting, packing and distribution

22%

Retail margin

30%

The export price of cashew nut kernels has fluctuated considerably since 2012. Between 2012 and 2015, the price was stable. Between 2015 and 2017, prices rose sharply and subsequently declined in 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2020, the average price for cashew kernels even fell below €6/kg. This is just the average price, as prices vary depending on the origin, quality, size and type of product.  For example, the Vietnamese price for whole 320 kernels on the UK market fell from GBP 7/kg (FOB) at the beginning of 2020 to GBP 5.6/kg at the end of 2020.

Tip:

  • Subscribe to the IHS Markit, which is one of the most respected market information services for food ingredients, including cashew nuts. Subscribers have access to overviews of cashew nut export prices which are published regularly and updated frequently.

This study was carried out on behalf of CBI by Autentika Global.  

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