Mozambique was the largest producer of cashew nuts in the 1970s. Today, the industry needs a push to reach those levels.

According to recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world produced a total of 4.4 million metric tons of cashew nuts in 2013. Vietnam was the world's largest individual producer, with 1.1 million tons, followed by Nigeria's nearly 1 million, India with some 753,000 tons, and Côte d'Ivoire with nearly 500,000 tons. In this context, Mozambique ranked 12th, though seventh in Africa, with a production of 65,000 tons in 2013.

In 2015, the director of the National Institute of Cashew Promotion (INCAJU), Filomena Maiópuè, said the sales of cashew nuts in Mozambique during the 2015-2016 campaign could reach 100,000 tons, 20,000 more than the previous season, and a significant 50% more than in 2013. Nevertheless, this is only about half of what Mozambique produced in the 1970s, when it was the largest producer in the world, harvesting an annual 200,000 tons. In 1972, Mozambican reached its peak production, with 216,000 tons. Mozambique lost its number one position after gaining independence from France, and in the mid-1990s the World Bank requested the country liberalize its cashew sector as a condition for further loans. By 1997, many factories had closed and more that 10,000 jobs were lost. Today, however, the industry has the potential to reach—even outnumber—production levels of the 1970s.

As Luís Lisanissa, the Executive Secretary of the Industrial Association of Cashews of Mozambique (AICAJÚ), told TBY, the government is now starting to restore plantations that are no longer as productive or efficient as before.

Even though improving the productivity of plantations is a good measure, it is definitely not enough, because to raise the added value in the country, production must be accompanied by an equal increase in processing capacity. To promote the processing industry, the government introduced an 18% tax on the export of raw cashew nuts in 2001. This tax revenue was supposed to be reinvested in the sector by INCAJÚ, but the measure has yet to show any significant improvement the industry. Currently, of the 3 million tons of cashew nuts produced in Africa, only 10% are processed within the continent. In the case of Mozambique, Luís Lisanissa told TBY that only 37,000-40,000 tons are processed in the country while the rest is exported to Vietnam, India, the US, or Europe for processing. In an interview with TBY, José Condugua Pacheco, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, said Mozambique still exports raw materials to India, but is keen to introduce new incentives, some of which are already in place among those who are processing locally. According to the Minister, the cashew model today is different—instead of using major processing units, as was the practice 10-15 years ago, the country is now using small units that can process between 1,000-5,000 tons of cashew nuts more efficiently.

As Abdul César Mussuale, Director of the Agriculture Promotion Center (CEPAGRI), told TBY, Nampula province is the main area of production, even though you can find smaller processing plants in Zambézia, Manica, Sofala, Gaza, and Inhambane. In fact, about 40% of national production comes from the 14 million cashew trees located in Nampula—a perfect area for investment and further developing the country's industry.
If growers are able to increase productivity and investors can establish processing factories, Mozambique could regain the production levels of the 1970s. There is room to further develop the industry, like processing cashew apple juice. Pepsi India has shown an interest in using cashew juice for some of its drinks, an opportunity Mozambique should not turn its back on.