|Workers of the Quang Son Company in Phu Yen Province process cashew for export. The industry has set itself a target of $2.5 billion from exports this year compared to last year's $2 billion. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HCM CITY (VNS) — Viet Nam exported 57,927 tonnes of cashew worth US$409.18 million in the first quarter.
This represented an increase of 32.4 per cent in volume and 15.42 per cent in value, Nguyen Duc Thanh, chairman of the Viet Nam Cashew Association (Vinacas), told a meeting in HCM City yesterday.
The average export price was $7,066 per tonne.
The US, China, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, the UK, Thailand, Germany, and the UAE are the Viet Nam's largest buyers.
Global demand was expected to remain high, especially in the US and Middle East markets.
The industry had set itself a target of $2.5 billion from exports this year compared to last year's $2 billion.
However, the impact of unusually cold weather when cashew trees were flowering earlier this year and subsequent hot weather meant a bumper crop was unlikely.
Ta Quang Huyen, director of Hoang Son I Co, Ltd, said the country enjoyed a bumper crop last year of 500,000-550,000 tonnes, but the figure was likely to fall by 120,000 tonnes this year.
Cashew output in Ivory Coast was forecast to drop by 100,000 tonnes this year to around 500,000 tonnes.
For many years his company had imported 50 per cent of raw cashew from other countries, mainly African, to process for export.
Raw cashew prices had increased sharply to $1,200 per tonne but it was still not easy to buy the nuts due to falling supply and increasing demand from India, Viet Nam, and other countries.
Due to increasing production costs, India's cashew exports were set to fall this year, giving Viet Nam an opportunity to increase exports.
Cashew prices were expected to be flat until September before rising strongly towards year-end.
But Pham Van Cong, Vinacas's deputy chairman, rejected Huyen's claim about bad weather, saying it was speculation by major trading companies that pushed up the prices of raw cashew.
Prices would go down by mid-May.
Thanh said the trend would be clear only in May-June after the cashew harvest in main producing countries like Viet Nam and Ivory Coast.
The current price of raw cashew from western African countries of more than $1,200 per tonne was too high, making it hard for processors to make a profit.
So Vietnamese firms should consider carefully before deciding to import.
With domestic supply meeting only 40-50 per cent of processors' demand, the latter had to import cashew, especially from Africa, at high prices.
Good for health
At the meeting, the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) shared studies on the health benefits of nuts, including cashew, ahead of World Health Day.
It showed that regular nut consumption was a key factor in maintaining good health and reduced mortality by more than 20 per cent regardless of the cause.
Nuts were key to a complete diet. They were packed with key nutrients including Vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, arginine, plant sterols, and phytochemical compounds.
Regular consumption of nuts reduced the risk of chronic disease and could lower bad cholesterol by 7-10 per cent.
Dang Hoang Giang, INC's representative in Viet Nam, said a handful (about 30 grams) of nuts a day was associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Several scientific studies indicated that nuts could also assist in reducing diabetes.
Thanh said Vinacas had worked with the HCM City Nutrition Centre to research into the nutritional aspects of cashew nut in Binh Phuoc and Dong Nai provinces. — VNS