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Where cashew is king, it fails to rule the economy

Mozambique struggles to regain global reach for its nut.

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The drive to this port city where the Limpopo River meets the Indian Ocean is lined with cashews.

First come the vendors with their cashew-filled buckets, waving at cars with the tin mugs used to scoop $2 portions. Then, the women who sit behind wide reed baskets piled with the nut – they’re quiet and calm from a distance, but ready to pounce on any car that stops, crowding, insisting upon their products’ superiority.

Closer to town are the large branches stuck vertically into the dusty ground, draped with bags of cashews and looking like some sort of modern art Christmas trees. Sellers wave at passing cars; young boys plead with drivers to buy.
Along this road, it seems, cashew is king. But in a nation that once was the world’s largest cashew producer, the king is a mere shadow of its former self.

On the other side of this bustling city of faded Portuguese buildings, Derek Higgo sits in the empty boardroom of his Mocita cashew processing factory and sighs: “Everything you see on the road there – it’s subsistence. It’s actually quite a sad situation.”

Ten years ago, Mocita was the largest employer in Xai Xai, with 1,500 workers processing thousands of tons of cashews a year – part of a nationwide effort to regain Mozambique’s dominance in the cashew industry.
But today, Mocita is quiet – a model not of economic resurgence, says Mr. Higgo and many others, but of international development gone wrong.

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