Low cashew prices could spell hunger, UN warns

The price cashew farmers are getting for their produce is so low this year that they might not be able to buy enough food for their families, the UN warns.

“Cashew is important for food security as it is commonly bartered for [the country’s staple] rice,” the UN Secretary-General said in a report on Guinean Bissau.

“The potential social impact of the current cashew season is not encouraging.”
Cashew prices are depressed with farmers selling cashews at between 75 CFA francs (US$0.16) and 50 CFA francs ($0.11) per kilogram, the report said.

The government’s recommended price this year was 200 CFA francs ($0.43) per kilogram.

The cashew harvest this year was good with an estimated 94,000 tonnes of cashew nuts exported to date, which already exceeds last year’s exports of 73,400 tonnes. Not only is the international price of cashews down, but the dollar is down against the euro which has further decreased the amount Guinea Bissau’s farmers get for their product. The former Portuguese colony’s currency is fixed to the euro while the price of cashews is set in dollars.

Farmers used to get about 250 CFA francs ($0.53) per kilogram for their cashews which was roughly equal to the price of a kilogram of imported rice, and so they bartered one for the other.  

Guinea Bissau also produces its own rice but the rains came late this year, said World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Stephanie Savariaud. “In anticipation that the lean season will be longer, in late August we already expanded our existing supplementary feeding project by adding…6,000 children and pregnant and lactating women at 32 WFP nutritional health centres,” she said.

“We are now waiting to hear the findings of an [interagency] crop assessment mission expected later this month to see if further action is needed,” she added.

But even if the rice harvest is good experts say farmers may have trouble selling it as few people in Guinea Bissau will have money to buy it.