The Barotse Cashew Company, established to stimulate economic activity in Western Province, has been placed under liquidation, with its assets now up for public auction. This development comes as a blow to the region, which struggles as one of Zambia’s two poorest areas in terms of economic activity.

Cashew nut production and processing had been identified as a key agribusiness activity with the potential to revitalize Western Province’s economy and create job opportunities for the youth. However, these aspirations have been dashed with the Barotse Cashew Company’s demise.

“The sale of assets belonging to the Barotse Cashew Company, including cashew nuts, processing equipment, and utensils, signifies a significant setback for the cashew nut industry in Western Province,” remarked a local business leader, expressing his disappointment.

Western Province boasts significant potential for cashew nut production. Zambia’s neighbour, Tanzania, raked in an impressive $230 million from cashew nut exports in the 2022/2023 season, highlighting the lucrative potential of this crop.

In an interview conducted in August 2018 with the Zambian Business Times, Charles Chileya, the then-project Manager for Cashew Nuts at the African Development Bank (AfDB), emphasized the cashew nut’s position as the highest-earning agricultural crop per tonne in Zambia.

“Even before processing, the average market price of raw cashew nuts sits around USD 800 per tonne, which translates to roughly K19,000 per tonne or K19 per kilogram,” Chileya explained. He projected that the Western Province project, encompassing 60,000 hectares, would yield 46,400 tonnes of raw cashew nuts annually, generating an estimated US$37 million upon reaching full operational capacity.

The AfDB had provided a $45 million funding facility for Zambia’s cashew nut industry. However, six years later, in 2024, little progress has been reported, culminating in the liquidation of the Barotse Cashew Company. This turn of events raises concerns about the effectiveness of the cashew nut development project and its prospects in Western Province.