Red River Foods recognize the primary importance of having dependable sources for our products, particularly cashews. To this end, we have entered the African market and are exploring possibilities for sourcing Indonesian cashews. In Africa, our interests in sustaining a reliable source of cashews enable us to be socially responsible as well. We are actively involved in bettering the quality of life to farmers in Africa, both directly and indirectly. Our employee there, headquartered in Ghana with a satellite office in Benin, is a former Peace Corps volunteer who has spent several years working with Ghanaian cashew farmers and farmer co-ops. He has a deep insight into the economic and agronomic challenges facing African cashew farmers. Under his direction, Red River has several initiatives in progress to assist West African farmers including providing them with fertilizers and equipment. Red River is working with US Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) to educate farmers in better farming practices to increase yield and raw seed quality. PCVs are also involved with farmer-based associations to teach accounting and basic business skills.
Our office in Ghana works with the PCVs on a weekly basis providing international market updates. In return, they provide our office real time information on pricing, supplies and activity. Currently there are close to 20 PCVs serving in the cashew industry in Ghana. We want to expand this program to other West African countries to increase farmer’s income by increasing yields, improving the efficiency of farmer associations, and providing processors with competitive products for the international market. By collaborating with the Peace Corps, we gain on-the-ground knowledge and direct access to the products of the largest cashew-producing region in the world.
RRF is working with one of the largest software companies in the world to introduce cell phone technology into the cashew buying process. The purpose is to develop mobile applications for smallholder cashew farmers, organized into co-operatives, which will enable logistical co-ordination, bulk selling, and access to market information. These applications will have the additional benefit of improving the socio-economic situation of a vast number of under-served rural inhabitants. Application of the software will make the cashew value chain more transparent and more efficient. It will enable us to trace the product back to a buying region, give more accurate information on quanitities, and result in better accounting reports. Red River is providing on-the-ground feedback, working with both farmer associations and the software company to develop user-friendly software for all members of the supply chain.
Still another goal of Red River—aimed at sustainability– is to establish a small, cashew plantation in the heart of the cashew growing area. The farm will not only supply our processing plants with a consistent supply of raw cashews, but will also be used as a training site for local farmers. We will be able to experiment with different varieties of cashew trees and develop a nursery that will have seedlings that produce the highest yields.
Early efforts to develop the African industry were focused on the agronomy side of the industry. We believe it is important to shift the focus to the processing sector. Unless the processing component of the industry is developed, the work done to this point in developing the African seed component will fail to translate into a long term, sustainable and integrated industry.
We believe the timing is ripe for establishing a foothold in Africa and creating a sustainable source for high-quality cashews while benefiting cashew farmers and creating jobs. Red River is investing directly in the African cashew industry and helping to build a sustainable industry from the ground up.