Every June, French shipping major CMA CGM resumes its fortnightly Bijagos Shuttle container service (for three to four months), connecting by sea the small West African tropical country of Guinea-Bissau with Spain’s Algeciras (about 3,500 km).

So what? One may ask in India. This dedicated sea container service exports huge quantities of cashew from Guinea-Bissau to India and Vietnam. In 2022, Guinea-Bissau exported 2,31,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts.

CMA-CGM said the dedicated service to Asia will be run from Bissau port to Algeciras on a fortnightly frequency from mid-June 2023 to the end of the cashew season.

The Bijagos Shuttle service will be fully operated by CMA CGM by deploying two vessels of 1,700 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit). The first vessel will be LION to leave Bissau on June 24. A substantial stock of 40’ containers is available in Bissau, the line said.

This unique product (service) is during the seasonal export of cashews from Bissau to India and Vietnam. The line said it has dedicated hubs in Mundra, Port Klang and Singapore.

Once the smaller shuttle service reaches Algeciras, the containers with cashews will be transferred to mainline ships (large vessels offering direct service to various global destinations) in the westbound EPIC Europe Pakistan India Consortium (EPIC) service to reach the ports of Jebel Ali, Khalifa Port; Karachi; Nhava Sheva and Mundra.

Other major shipping lines like Maersk and MSC also provide various transportation modes, including multimodal, to export cashew from Guinea-Bissau to India.

A businessline report in November 2022 said cashew is by far the most important cash crop in Guinea-Bissau, representing 60 per cent of the country’s exports. It is the main source of income in rural areas. The estimated area under cashew cultivation is 223,000 hectares with an annual production of 230,000 tonnes, making Guinea-Bissau the fifth largest producer in the world. Most cashew nuts produced in Guinea-Bissau are exported to India for processing.

The report said Beta Group, the Kerala-based food company, which owns the Nut King brand, will set up an industrial unit in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau for the cashew business. It then announced $100 million in that country over five years.

Guinea Bissau exported 2,31,000 tonnes of raw cashew in 2022 and of this around 75 per cent to India and the balance to Vietnam, says Rajmohan Pillai, Chairman of the Thiruvanthapuram-based Beta Group, owners of Nut King brand.

According to India-Guinea Bissau Bilateral Relations document released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2021, cashew crop accounts for more than 90 per cent of export earnings of Guinea-Bissau and almost the entire cashew crop (around 98 per cent) is exported to India for processing.