The government has taken initiatives to utilise the great potentiality of farming cashew nut as an export-oriented crop in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT).
Agriculture Minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque on Tuesday said this at a meeting organised at the planning ministry on the prospects of cashew nut farming in Bangladesh.
Abdur Razzaque said Vietnam controls the global cashew nut market worth $9 billion. India used to export cashew nut in the past but stopped as its domestic demand rose.
To exploit the opportunity, the government has initiated cashew nut farming in the CHT, said the agriculture minister.
Last year, 6,000 better-yielding saplings were brought in from abroad along with seeds from Vietnam and India. Besides, agricultural extension officers have been asked to motivate farmers for cashew nut farming, he added.
But, cashew nut processing after production is a challenge. The government has already sent four farmers to Vietnam to train on the crop's farming, Razzaque further said.
Last year, 650 tonnes of cashew (worth Tk70 crore) was imported through the Chittagong Port.
Vietnam did not cultivate cashew nut until 1990. But at present, the country is exporting the item worth $4 billion.
To meet the domestic demand, the country produces half and imports the rest from African countries. Because of the complexities in cashew nut processing, African nations export 90 percent of their produce.
Minister Razzaque said a young entrepreneur named Shakil Ahmed has built a cashew nut processing factory after seven to eight years of labour.
The government intends to provide cashew nut traders with similar facilities such as export-import and bonded warehouse facilities availed by apparel exporters, he said further.
One of the largest private steel industry entrepreneurs BSRM Steels Limited has expressed its interest in cashew nut farming. It has already trained 1,000 farmers.
To raise the production of unpopular products, the government has provided Tk106 crore to the agriculture ministry. The finance ministry said it would fund more if required.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and Planning Minister MA Mannan were also present at the meeting.
Apart from financial assistance in production and export of cashew nut, the finance minister pledged to provide other facilities too.
"The factories have to be built based on those in Vietnam as we will get technical assistance," Mustafa Kamal said.
Cashew nut entrepreneur Shakil Ahmed said he had built GreenGrain Cashew Processing Industry in 2016 in Patenga with only 10 workers. At present, 65 people are working in his factory where 55 are females.
"We dream of exporting two lakh tonnes of cashew nut by 2022," he said.