GUINEA-BISSAU: Government moves to stabilise cashew price

Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Guinea-Bissau government has moved to reduce the price of cashew nuts, the country's main cash crop which is integral to many people's livelihoods, in a bid to revitalise the sector following dismal performance linked to a previous price hike that last year sparked a food crisis in the tiny West African state.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries but also among the largest producers of cashews, meaning the nuts form an important part of many people's livelihoods.

The industry has been in crisis since the government raised prices for the commodity in 2006 from 250 CFA [50 US cents] Francs to 350 CFA [70 cents]. Foreign merchants, who are mostly the traditional buyers of the unprocessed nuts in the country, turned away from the Guinea-Bissau market because of the higher prices.

But barely two weeks after the appointment of a new prime minister following weeks of political uncertainty, the new official price for a kilogram of cashew nut now stands at 200 CFA Francs [US 40 cents].

"There will be no more state interference in the countryside and if there are some problems brought to us we will be ready to correct the errors," Issuf Sanha, Guinea-Bissau’s minister of finance pledged on Tuesday.

The National Cashew Commission said last year that out of 110,000 tonnes of production last year only 93,000 tonnes were exported.

The commission's head, Henrique Mendes, told IRIN he believes that the government’s recent decision would help boost production and export. But in the long run, he said, further measures needed to be taken.

"The future of our production depends on refining the nuts to increase the value," Mendes said.

The new official price, the finance minister said, was a census decision reached among the government, cashew producers and exporters.

Farmers nonetheless say they are satisfied with the new price.

"We, as producers, consider the new price satisfying and this will allow us start farming", said Mama Samba Embalo, head of the National Association of Guinea-Bissau Farmers.
Author: IRIN
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