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Evaluation des conditions de mise en oeuvre des normes issues des directives CEE/ ONU dans la production des noix brutes de Cajou à  Kouandé, Atacora, Bénin

par Boris HOUENOU
Université d'Abomey- Calavi faculté des sciences agronomiques - Diplôme d'ingénieur agronome, option économie-socio-anthropologie et communication pour le développement rural 2008

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The cashew nut is the second exporting product of Benin after cotton. The exported volume of the product is estimated at over 50,000 tons in 2004. The evolution over fifteen years has revealed the importance of this crop in the exports, and largely in Beninese economy. From 1997 to 2001, exports of cashew nuts per year in Benin are rated at 33% in value and 40% in amount (Trade map CCI Geneva, 2001). Exports of cashew nuts have regained more importance with the declining performance of the cotton sector. In the same vein, and concomitantly with the evolution of cashew nut sector, producers have to abide with quality standards with respect to quality norms.

This study entitled «Assessment of implementation conditions of production standards resulting from EEC/UN directions in the production of cashew nuts in Kouandé, Atacora, Benin» intends to contribute to a better efficiency of interventions for a more efficiency-led cashew nut production. This suggests production that meets quality standards required on the world market as well as quantity records.

In order to achieve this objective, a survey has been carried out on 60 farmers from 10 villages and about 15 CVPA who were sampled after a systematic checking up of the membership of producers' organizations. After this classification of producers and a partial analysis of the financial profitability of production systems, the study proceeded with the use of the prospective analysis set by ICRA.

The production system of cashew nuts is featured by some production factors: the land-producer ratio which is higher than 2 ha (for 68% of producers) and the land in ownership (about 93% of lands). The work force is mainly family based (the average size of households is 7.2), and sometimes more workers are hired for harder tasks, and harvesting operations are conducted at a minimal cost. On the other hand, the cashew nut plant is associated with other crops in a rotation process: 92% of farmers produce food crops or other crops before planting cashew nut trees. The average yield in the study area, over fifteen years is 307.85kg/ha. On the contrary, data from FAO indicate an average yield of 225.17kg/ha over the same period. The test T of student (T=3.583; p=0.001) shows a significant difference and confirms an advantage for Kouandé compared to other production areas in Benin.

The systems also shows that most farmers fail to abide by the production standards, especially those
related to the quality of harvested nuts. 83% of producers use seeds of doubtful quality. As for
spacing, the density ranges from some cashew plants to over 200 plants per hectare. 90% of farmers

don't practice sunny spell. Most of Kouandé producers pick up nuts upon their falling, while only 3.33% of producers harvest nuts from trees; 58% of farmers mix both good quality nuts and bad quality nuts; 65% of Kouandé producers keep their nuts in sacks. This crop plays a social and economic role in the study area.

The cashew plays a core role in the economic lives of surveyed families. As the first source of their incomes, the cashew nut production contributes to children education, family health expenses, family food, and to various ceremonies and farm works, and finally to the renewal of the dead or living cheptel. Moreover, in the study area, this crop is an important source of employment, of social prestige, life insurance and contributes to the creation of temporary wealth that is the basis of very important monetary transactions.

Cashew production is, in whole, financially profitable, especially when we move from traditional production system to the system indicated by the production standards.

The study revealed that producers have a positive perception on the production standards regarding the confidence of customers, the yield of crops, the protection of the environment, the availability of the equipment, the cooperation between producers, the competitiveness of the farms, the competition on the market, the exportable sales and the profit to their competitors. On the other hand, farmers think that abiding by the standards of quality has a negative impact on the costs of production and on the prices to producers. These opinions have nothing to do with the categories of producers that we obtained according to the X2 test.

Actually, producers are categorized on the basis of relevant variables. They are then classified in homogenous categories on the basis of social, economic and/or demographic features (age, type of producer, the lands tenure, instruction level, location of farms), on the basis of parameters of the standards (spacing, harvest method, storage method, production of seeds, celerity of picking up) and on the basis of yield. The X2 tests indicate a high dependence between these variables and the categories while the gap between categories according to test ANOVA is not significant regarding the location and the yield.

A so-called «prospective analysis» has been carried out deriving from classes of producers obtained earlier.

On the basis of analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we made prospective scenarii in the evolution of implementation of standards in the production of cashew nuts. Those scenarios are mainly optimistic, pessimistic, stationary and realistic, and are based on five core strengths including the demand in cashew nuts, the organization of trading, the organization of

the extension, the frequency and quantitative importance of the stealing of nuts, and the suitable loans to production. The «focus groups» carried out with producers endeavour to spell out proposition of factors in order to promote the Benin cashew nuts label during the next ten years. Key words: Prospective analysis, quality standards, production standards, international standards, standards perceptions, standards parameters, SWOT analysis, label, foreign trade, cashew nuts.

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