Launched in northern Benin in 2010, Tolaro Global could become the top West African business exporting entirely African-produced roasted and seasoned cashews.
Located 420 km from Benin’s capital city, Tolaro Global’s cashew processing facility in Parakou was set up in 2011 and, in its first year, processed 557 t of raw cashews. By 2016, processing had dramatically risen to 2,500 t, according to estimates from the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), and the company is now the leading cashew processor and exporter in Benin.
The processing facility buys cashews from 7,000 cashew farmers and is run by a staff of 600 people, half of whom are women, mainly recruited in Tourou communities and neighbouring villages. Employees receive healthcare and childcare benefits, in addition to fair wages and subsidised food.
With technical support provided by Technoserve, a major achievement for Tolaro Global in 2012 was to be awarded the ACA Quality and Sustainability Seal, certifying the quality of cashews produced and compliance with international cashew production and processing standards. The company was the first ACA certified factory in Africa. With input from PepsiCo and Self Help Africa to improve farming practices and introduce new cashew trees, farmers’ yields have also increased by 25% over the last 5 years. The farmer project included establishing a model farm for farmers to see various techniques, including orchard layout, pruning and other agronomic practises, and four nurseries to supply improved trees. In West Africa, cashew harvests average around 3 kg per tree per year while under optimum production conditions, improved trees can provide up to 60 kg per tree per year.
By 2021, Tolaro Global plans to increase its primary processing production capacity to 20,000 t per year and create a further 1,900 jobs. This will mean sourcing raw cashews from 3,000 Beninese growers, with around €10.94 million investment in operations in Benin, including financial support from Moringa, a private equity fund, which specialises in financing sustainable agroforestry projects in Africa and Latin America. “This partnership will allow us to achieve our vision for the cashew industry in Benin. We believe that a well-developed cashew processing sector in West Africa can radically transform the region, but it takes strategic partners like Moringa to help make that happen,” said Jace Rabe and Serge Kponou, Tolaro Global managing directors. Once this goal is achieved, the company expects to become the leading West African company exporting 100% ‘made in Africa’ roasted and seasoned cashews.
Benin’s cashews are recognised for their sweet taste and better quality, and are granted a premium. With clear competitive advantages, the development of local processing, as with Tolaro Global, presents exciting new opportunities.