Vietnam’s cashew exports are likely to rise to US$1.5 billion in 2020 from $1.13 billion last year, the Viet Nam Cashew Association has said. Speaking at an international cashew conference in HCM City last week, Nguyen Thai Hoc, its chairman, said under the industry development strategy, the area under cashew would remain at 350,000 hectares until 2015 when average productivity would be 1 tonne per hectare, before reducing to 330,000ha by 2020 when the yield would rise by almost half.
The industry would focus on raising the ratio of fully processed kernels to satisfy the high requirements of customers and add more value.
To achieve the targets, the industry would take several measures like modernising technologies and equipment to expand processing capacity, improve quality, diversify, and ensure hygiene and food safety.
It would provide training to 1.5 -2 million workers in cashew growing and processing.
Last year Viet Nam, the world’s top exporter with a 37 per cent market share, exported 198,000 tonnes of cashew, a year-on-year increase of 11.8 per cent.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Luong Le Phuong said cashew was one of Viet Nam’s main agricultural exports.
However, Vietnamese firms only undertook production phases that contain little value addition while those that generated the most profits, like processing, increasing brand value, and commercialising products, were done by foreign enterprises.
He called on international buyers to work with local businesses to invest in processing in Viet Nam and help build brands.
Hoc said the sector currently faced many challenges, including shortages of workers and raw cashew for processing for export and increasing costs.
Abnormal weather patterns decreased yield and many growers preferred rubber and other trees for higher profit to chop cashew.
Bui Van Thach, deputy chairman of the Binh Phuoc Province People’s Committee, agreed with Hoc, saying that if the Government did not support cashew growers, the area under the crop would plunge.
He called for establishing a fund to stabilise cashew prices and support growers.
Domestic market ignored
Many attendees called on processing companies to focus on the lucrative domestic market.
Dinh Thi My Loan, general secretary of the Viet Nam Retailers Association, said the cashew industry depended too much on exports, shipping more than 95 per cent of output.
"Cashew consumption in the domestic market accounted a very modest rate of 1.8-2.2 per cent. In India, the world’s largest cashew producer, as much as 40-60 per cent of cashew is sold in the domestic market."
Loan attributed the low demand at home to the high prices, poor marketing, and lack of diversified products.
Nguyen Phi Long, director of Nam Long Co Ltd, said because of its high price cashew was considered a "high-end" nut, and so many people did not eat it despite its high nutritional value.
Besides, cashew processors were not interested in the local market because of the very low margins.
But Loan and Long agreed that with a population of nearly 100 million, the Vietnamese market was lucrative for cashew nut and cashew nut-based products.
Delegates heard that with demand for the nut expected to increase sharply but area under cashew reducing, prices would remain high.
Hoc announced that Vinacas and cashew associations from other countries had agreed to establish the Temporary International Cashew Association with its first meeting to be next September in Gambia.
The two-day event, organised by Vinacas, was attented by 350 delegates, including buyers from the US, China, Australia, Russia, and Canada.