Ivory Coast's cashew harvest is already running in record territory, but exports have slumped as high taxes and low prices have pushed farmers to sell their output in neighbouring countries, a trade body said Friday.
At 725,000 tonnes at the start of the harvest season, Ivory Coast's cashew output is already up three percent from the record it set last year, and once again the top player of the nut for which global production totals nearly three million tonnes.
However, "at this stage, 200,000 tonnes of nuts have been exported, against 330,000 tonnes... at the same point in 2015, or a drop of 40 percent," said Malamine Sanogo, director of the Cotton-Cashew Council, which manages the sector.
The drop in exports to India, which is a major processor of cashews as well as a consumer, is running around 60 percent.
"Export taxes are too high in Ivory Coast, producers close to the border don't hesitate to sell their harvests in Ghana, Mali or in Burkina Faso" said Fousseni Adama, an exporter.
Ivory Coast has helped push its cashew production higher in recent years by offering farmers a fixed price.
But a farmer said the current price of 350 CFA francs per kilo (0.53 euros, $0.60) was now "low" compared to that in neighbouring countries.
Officials minimised the impact of unofficial exports, and judged the purchase price fair.
Ivory Coast has also been been encouraging more processing of cashews at home to gain more of the added value, with plans to increase subsidies to processors from five percent to 30 percent or even 40 percent in the coming years.
The cashew industry employs 1.5 million people directly and indirectly in the Ivory Coast.