Guinea-Bissau: unsold cashews a disaster for farmers
Staring hunger in the face, farmer Aladje Madio Dembo has travelled to the Guinea Bissau capital Bissau in a desperate bid to sell his 10-tonne cashew nut harvest and raise some cash. "I am willing to sell all my cashew harvest, even if it's just for 100 CFA [20 cents] a kilo," said Dembo, after a week of fruitless hunting for a buyer in the capital.
Guinea Bissau's cashew crop is usually bought by merchants who take the raw nut to India for processing. But this year they have refused to buy, saying the government-set price of 350 CFA per kilo is too high. Cashew nuts are Guinea Bissau's main export, but according to Minister of Commerce Pascoal Domingos Batica, some 30,000 tonnes of the nut - 30 percent of the harvest – is sitting in stores, unsold.
Portugal introduced cashew trees from Latin America to its African colonies, including Guinea Bissau. But it is in the years since independence in 1974 that the cashew nut has grown to become the base of the Guinea Bissau economy. Farmers have even stopped growing the national staple food, rice, in favour of the mighty cashew and now the country doesn't grow enough rice to feed itself.
Some 85 percent of Guinea Bissauans, like Dembo, rely on cashew sales for their livelihoods. With their crop unsold, they are struggling to buy rice to feed their families. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has repeatedly warned that Guinea Bissau is on the brink of an agricultural crisis after 85 percent of rice paddies were ruined during last year's floods in the country's main rice growing areas in the south.