To You It’s Just a Cashew

Cashew fruit and seed

Most of us eat them with little thought, other than perhaps it might go good with a beer, that we hope it might be nutritious (and not too fattening) or that maybe it needs a bit more salt. In any case, the next time you eat a cashew consider that some of the world’s tastiest cashews are grown in the small (population of about 1.6 million), very poor nation of Guinea-Bissau.

Located on the Atlantic coast, this country has one of the lowest per-capita economies. In 2011 it was estimated that the GDP was just $1,100 per person. In April of this year, soldiers kidnapped Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. for the second time in two years — a few weeks before he was set to be elected president (he was released in late April but is in exile in the Ivory Coast).

This military revolt disrupted cashew exports, which accounts for 98 percent of the country’s export revenue and employs almost nine out of every 10 people, including children.

Although representing just 7 percent of world cashew production, Guinea-Bissau apparently produces some of the best — taste, appearance, texture — cashews. It is humbling to realize that this nut (apparently it is referred to as a “seed” rather than a nut and the fruit body is a cashew apple) represents such an important part of a desperately poor country and that many of us, myself included, probably had never heard of.

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