According to the Trade for Development Centre, only 3% of cashews sold on the world markets are Fair trade certified.
The process of cashews:
Women collect yellow cashew fruits in the southern countries, especially India, Ivory Coast and Vietnam.*
Once harvesting, the nuts have to be cut in half with special equipment. From that point, all of the work is done entirely by hand.
Women have to separate the actual nut from the skin, which contains toxic oils that burn skin and damage the eyesight. Unfortunately they are usually not provided with safety equipment such as gloves due to cost-cutting measures, which expose them to these toxins and influence their health.
In India meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported last year how,
“Burns are a fact of life for up to 500,000 workers in India’s cashew industry, nearly all women. They are employed without contracts, with no guarantee of steady income, no pension or holiday pay. Many don’t even get gloves, and if they did, they probably couldn’t afford to wear them. Gloves would slow their shelling down, and they are paid by the kilo.”
If we want to eat cashews and avoid value chains built on the back of human misery, we have only one option: pay more and get the fair trade one. Another option is to choose other nuts which are local or traveled shorter distances with less exploitation.
We love using oat milk as it is the least environmentally- and socially-problematic of the plant based milk alternatives.
*According to FAOSTAT figures reported by factfish, in 2017 world total production stood at 3,971,046 tons, of which Vietnam (863,060 tons), India (745,000 tons) and Ivory Coast (711,000) account for 58.3%.
Photograph: Maja Vujic