The million-dollar industry around cashew nut processing is sadly overshadowed by modern slavery; known as “Blood Cashew”. The term was invented by the organisation Human Rights Watch and refers to the working conditions that are often linked to the processing of cashews.
From the beginning of Smiling, we have worked to support the in-country processing of raw materials across Africa. The initiative has resulted in the creation of vital jobs and improved trading conditions. For us, it was an essential foundation to deliver an important goal – to change the overcast cashew industry.
A staggering 57% of the world’s cashews are harvested in Africa, but only 5% are processed locally, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs locally. The raw nuts are instead sent to other continents for processing.
As the processing is usually done by hand, extensive burns can occur on the workers hands. This is a result of unsafe practices due to the lack of access to the right protective equipment. The right equipment protects workers against the corrosive liquid between the two shells of the cashew nut.
Global competition has driven small margins resulting in many factories being unable to afford the necessary equipment and gloves needed to protect workers. As the gloves also contribute to slowing efficiency (costing the businesses time and therefore more money), it is often these essential items of protective clothing which are sacrificed.
A French TV team has made a feature from a factory in India about the concept of Blood Cashew, check it out here.
“I have felt how quickly the corrosive acid affects the skin. At one point when I was in a factory, I helped shovel nutshells. After only one afternoon when I, naively, shoveled the nutshells in just flip-flops, I had large wounds on the feet and the narrow legs. Think of the people who work with processing cashew nuts all their lives without the right protective equipment “
Oscar Alsén, CEO Smiling
Reasonable conditions, using local workers and providing access to good protective equipment are fundamental components of the Smiling business. This is the basis for our strong relationship with local farmers and factories in West Africa. Mutual loyalty and development are the result of a shared effort and vision.
From the beginning, our products have been Fairtrade-certified throughout the supply chain. Through the Fairtrade initiative, inspections take place in both the farming collectives and factories to enable the quality and ethical control of our products. These controls include equipment, wages, working environment and democratic rights of the workers. A given for us, but not for everyone.
Be bold to question your next nut purchase!
Let’s change the cashew industry together!