June 13, 2013
Abidjan — About a third of Côte d’Ivoire’s cashew nuts are smuggled abroad every year, robbing the country of a valuable income stream.
“More than 100,000 tons of cashew nuts are illegally exported every year,” said Siaka Coulibaly, the chief of staff at the Ministry of Agriculture.
It is estimated that 150,000 tons of cashew nuts were smuggled through the northern and eastern borders of the country in 2011, representing a US$130 million loss to the national economy and a $3 million state fiscal revenue loss, a UN expert panel said in an April 2013 report.
Former New Forces rebels in the current administration of President Alassane Ouattara are part of a “military-economic” network smuggling cocoa, cotton, cashew nuts and other natural resources mainly to Ghana, said the report.
“The network also systematically impedes proper control and interdiction of smuggled goods by the recently redeployed state authorities such as the police, the gendarmerie, the customs authorities and the water and forestry police,” it said.
Cashew nut production has grown steadily in the past decade to become the country’s third export produce after cocoa and coffee.
Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s second largest cashew nut exporter. This year’s output is estimated to be 480,000 tons, 50,000 tons more than in 2012, according to the Cotton and Cashew Nut Regulatory Authority (ARECA).
Cashews are mainly grown in Côte d’Ivoire’s north and northeast where they were introduced in the 1960s to counter desertification. Production rose from 75,000 tons in 2002 to 430,000 tons in 2012, said Kassoum Bamba, an economist in the commercial capital Abidjan.
“In 10 years cashew nut production has risen massively and it could become the [country’s] top export earner in the near future,” Bamba told IRIN.
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