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10 good reasons to savour the flavour of cashew

Cashews are grown by smallholders in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, India, and Vietnam, before they are shelled, peeled and sent to supermarkets. Follow the cashew on its journey from tree to taste bud with Olam

1. It’s quirky!
Not only does the cashew nut come from a yellow and red fruit called an apple but it is actually a kidney-shaped seed stuck on the apple’s underside. You can eat the apple but only when it’s ripe.

The juice is drunk in parts of India and Brazil and it can also be distilled into a type of wine.1_Olam cashew_fruit












2: Cashews provide livelihoods for millions
In Africa farmers are often illiterate, with no financial backing, so yields can be low. Olam buys cashews either directly or indirectly from 400,000 African farmers. 42,000 are enrolled in our flagship Olam Livelihood Charter (OLC).

With expert partners like African Cashew Alliance, GIZ and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), the OLC aims to holistically address economic, social and environmental needs.

Farmers in Bondoukou, Côte d’Ivoire, have boosted yields from 350kg per hectare in 2011 to 550kg in 2014.












3: Harvesting is hard with only five “snack packs” per tree
The cashews are ready only when the fruit drops, so farmers must gather them by hand. Then they must quickly and carefully detach the seed – if any fruit remains then it can affect the quality of the nut. This farmer is learning a new technique using taut string to make a clean break.

One mature tree provides 4-5kg of raw cashew nuts, but only 1-1.25kg of edible kernels. If they make it through transport and processing intact, these kernels would fill just 4 or 5 snack packs on the supermarket shelf.












4: The cashew has a hot, arduous journey from tree to warehouse
The farmers leave the cashew seeds to dry for three days in the sun. They are then cooled overnight under the trees before being transported along rough terrain to the warehouse on foot, bicycle or sometimes motorbike.

The cashew seeds are then laid out in the sun for another 4-8 hours, rattling when completely dry. They are then bagged, weighed and tagged for Olam, to ensure traceability.












5: It’s a tough nut to crack!
Cashews are so fiddly to extract from their double shell that nimble fingers are required to ensure that the delicate kernels remain whole for discerning consumers. This means that mechanisation in cashew processing remains limited.

Olam’s plant in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, is one of the world’s most advanced mechanised units and employs 2,400 people. In Olam’s facilities the “waste” cashew shells are used as fuel for the steam boilers that roast the nuts to prepare them for shelling.

A skilled manual sheller can do over 17 nuts a minute or 8,000 per day!5_Olam cashew_cracking












6: It’s also a tough nut to peel
Women are usually better at the delicate peeling that removes the nut from its casing.

Olam alone employs 25,000 people in 20 processing units in Africa and Asia, 90% of whom are women, and often in regions where there is little alternative employment.

A reasonably skilled Olam employee working a full shift can earn, on average, 25% more than the minimum wage. Olam also provides literacy classes to help women progress both at work and in their communities.6_Olam cashew_peeling











7: Inspiring entrepreneurs

In Djekanou, Côte d’Ivoire, one enterprising woman, Mme Constantine Kouadio approached Olam with a successful business investment case.

With training and support from Olam, she set up her own mechanical peeling unit to provide employment for around 300 women in a region still recovering from political unrest.












8: It stops ships from going rusty!
Well, not the nut, but the casing contains the dark, messy Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) which is used in industrial and marine paint, electrical boards and brake powder.

However, it’s also an irritant – workers must wear protective gloves or coat their hands in a special oil.8_Olam cashew_shells












9: Each cashew is designated one of 26 international grades
The quality and size of a peeled cashew is assessed in seconds and separated into different colour bowls.

The lowest grades go to animal feed, middle grades might end up as ingredients in confectionery products, energy bars, toppings and for products such as cashew butter, while the superior whole nut grades make it into your satisfying snack-packs.












10: It’s a nut with potential!
Cashew consumption is increasing by about 5-7% a year, partly due to a growing recognition of its health benefits such as magnesium, which is important for healthy bones and teeth.

But there are still challenges to overcome, not least helping farmers and cashew communities achieve their potential.10_Olam cashew_Bouake cashew workers












To find out more about Olam our cashew journey click here