The Top 5 Cashew Nut Producing Countries

  Country Cashew Production
(metric tonnes)
% of World Total
1 Viet Nam 2,663,885 44.9%
2 India 785,925 13.2%
3 Côte d'Ivoire 688,000 11.5%
4 Philippines 228612 3.8%
5 Benin 215,232 3.6%
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 Special Report

The Mighty Cashew

The Cashew is a nut-bearing tree that is native to Brazil. Noticing that it's many roots grew wide and deep and was an effective tree for ant-erosion in sandy or rocky soil. So the very observant Portuguese scooped up the tree sometime around the 15th century and shipped it to India and West Africa where eventually someone decided that the kernel was tasty and the rest is history.

Nowadays the Cashew is a major product for millions of small-scale farmers. Worldwide the annual production is about 2.1 million tons of raw nuts (RCN) with an estimated value of US$ 1.5 -2 billion. The current main cashew production regions are Africa, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Cashew nuts consist of 35-45% seeds and around 55-65% of shells. The shells contain 15-30% oil. A ton of nuts contains around 200 kg seeds and 180 kg oil (cashew nut oil or cashew nut shell liquid “CNSL“).CNSL is used as oil in industry.

Cashews: Yummy But Expensive

Cashew kernels are ranked as either the second or third most expensive nut traded in the United States. Macadamia nuts are priced higher and pecan nuts can be, if the harvest is poor. Cashew nuts have a well established market in the United States with a great variety of uses. Retail prices range from about US$4-11 per pound (US$9-23 per kg) depending on the size of nut and the packaging.

It's Not Just the Nut

There are three main cashew products that are traded on the international market: 1. the raw nuts, 2. the cashew kernels and 3. the cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL). A fourth product - the cashew apple is generally processed and consumed locally.

They Grow on Trees?

Yes. The cashew tree, native to Brazil, was introduced to Mozambique and then India in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese, as a means of controlling coastal erosion. It was spread within these countries with the aid of elephants that ate the bright cashew fruit along with the attached nut. The nut was too hard to digest and was later expelled with the droppings. It was not until the nineteenth century that plantations were developed and the tree then spread to a number of other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The cashew is a close relative of mangos, pistachios, poison ivy and poison oak. Most cashew trees start bearing fruit in the third or fourth year, and are likely to reach their mature yield by the seventh year if conditions are favourable. The average yield of nuts of a mature tree is in the range of 7-11 kg per annum. Although the cashew tree is capable of living for 50-60 years, most trees produce nuts for about 15-20 years. The harvesting and processing of cashew is very labour intensive.

Cashew Nutrition

The Cashew is a nice little packet of nutrition disguised as a nut. It is around 46% fat - most of it monounsaturated (60%) and polyunsaturated (20%), a cashew is 25% carbohydrates and contains a lot of protein at 21%. One ounce of cashews contain about 160 calories. Cashews are also high in minerals like copper with 31% of the daily value per ounce (28 grams) and Manganese with 23% of the daily value. Copper and manganese are important minerals for bone health. Cashews are also a good source of vitamin K at 12% of the daily intake. Vitamin K helps in regulating blood calcium levels. Cashews are also rich in antioxidants. If you eat a lot of cashews though, you may want to eat them unsalted, so as to avoid getting too much salt in your diet.
Top 5 facts sources: Top 5 facts sources:
  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2016). Retrieved Jun 27, 2018.
Tags: Farming & Agriculture Statistics, Crops, India, South America

Sources:  FAOSTAT data, 2020 (Latest available data accessed by July 10th, 2020).

List Notes: Cashew production is in metric tonnes for the year 2018 which is the latest available data as of July 10th, 2020. Please note: cashew production data includes shell.

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