Top 10 Blogs of 2013: 3. Cashew Nut Industry

by Developed Africa 30. December 2013 09:00

As 2013 draws to a close, Developed Africa looks back over our 10 most popular posts of the year.

The Guardian recently published several articles detailing the issues behind the cashew industry, including details of the awful conditions the cashew shellers work in, and the terrible payment they get in return. But their suffering becomes particularly poignant when you learn of the money that is made by superstores on the profit of these cashew nuts sold at extortionate prices in comparison to the amount paid to workers. 

It's time the EU took action and set up a regulator with the power to stop abuses by retailers that result in extremely low pay and appalling working conditions."

 Head of policy from Traidcraft, Liz May has argued that a regulating power needs to be set up by the EU to stop the poor working conditions as well as the awful pay of cashew nut workers. In order for it actually have an affect on these practices, it needs to be a regulator, simply advising will not be good enough to actually make any changes. The group would need powers to investigate working practices and scales of pay in order to have an effective impact.

It is not only working conditions that need addressing, there is a notable issue with who farmers sell to. More needs to be done to alert farmers to the benefits of selling to collection centres (if there are any in their region) rather than to middlemen who give them a lower price and subsequently sell to the collection centres. More co-operation needs to occur, and farmers need to be properly informed of their options- they could be earning so much more for the same yields of cashews. 

Perhaps, as Tanzania Investment Centre calls for more investment into Tanzania's cashew nut industry, the best way for better conditions and pay to avail is if there is enough investment into the sector to allow more collection centres, processing plants, etc. to be set up in the areas where there are cashew nut farmers, so that they have a better option than selling to the middlemen who send it off to be processed, often in other countries. If the whole process could be conducted in each separate area where cashew nuts are harvested, then the livelihood of the cashew farmers would be both protected and elevated.

But it isn't just this industry in which workers are underpaid and supermarkets make extreme profits from their exploitation. The warped supply chain is similar to that of coffee (see our previous article on the coffee industry), as well as sugar (see another of our articles). This is happening across the board in these industries, and is a difficult situation to tackle- but one that should be addressed. Should supermarkets be able to make such a large profit whilst those farmers and processors are paid barely enough to live on? Co-operations, better informed farmers, and a regulation body would benefit these industries greatly. 


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