Cashew nut processors lack raw materials for export because farmers having switched to higher value pepper and rubber crops, resulting in enterprises importing half the volume of total demand.
Nguyen Thai Hoc, chairman of the Viet Nam Cashew Association (Vinacas), said the country imported about 80,000 tonnes of crude cashew from ASEAN, Brazil and India in the first half of this year. It is expected that cashew nut producers would import an additional 220,000 tonnes in the second half.
Processors needed smaller quantities of imported cashew in the first half this year due to inventories carried over from late 2011.
Total national output of crude cashew reached only 330,000 tonnes in the first half, meeting 50 per cent of total demand.
Nguyen Duc Thanh, deputy chairman of Vinacas and director general of Tan An Export and Agro-product Processing, said his company imported about 10,000 tonnes of crude cashew from Western Africa every year, equal to 45 per cent of the total amount required.
Whereas, Tran Hoang Son, director of Gia Bao Cashew JSC said his company owns 20ha of cashew plantation, which only satisfies 30 per cent of annual need."
Southern Binh Phuoc Province, the country's cashew hub, has about 230 companies requiring an average of about 600,000 tonnes of crude nuts per year, whereas the area only churns out 200,000 tonnes. With resources supplied by other provinces not enough, producers have been forced to import, Son added.
Recently, roughly 15,000ha of cashew plantation was chopped down, leaving only 185,000ha in Binh Phuoc.
"Although the province has implemented many measures in support of farmers, the area of cashew cultivation has decreased as the value of other crops, such as rubber, pepper, potatoes and wheat, increases" said Tran Ngoc Kinh, director of Binh Phuoc's Plant Protection Department.
Cashew plantation in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highland) provinces of Dak Lak and Dak Nong has reduced by 20,700ha to 83,900ha against 2010.
Son explained that although Binh Phuoc was a cashew hub, farmers only made a profit of VND40 million ($1,905) from one hectare per year, whereas they got up to VND80-100 million from a hectare of rubber.
Cashew prices hover around $6,900 per tonne, down 5.5 per cent against June last year.
To deal with the problem, Son said it was essential to grow cashew in accordance with world standards to prevent pestilence and raise productivity to 1.8-2.2 tonnes per ha, up 0.5-0.7 tonnes against the norm.
In addition, Vinacas is growing Vietnamese cashews in Cambodia to increase resources.
Viet Nam earned $484 million from cashew exports in the first half of this year, up 21.4 per cent against the same period in 2011, with the two major importers being the US and China. — VNS