By- Rajeev Jain : The cashew is a poor man’s crop but a rich man’s food. For a poor farmer cashew is a source of income and livelihood and for the consumer it’s a status symbol. Cashew is the king of nuts. India is a global leader in the world in terms of net production of cashew. Research and development work carried out in India has enabled the country to maintain high standards in terms of raw cashew production.
Innovative Methods for Increase Productivity
India being the leader in the world cashew economy in raw nut production and kernel processing is also the largest supplier of cashew kernels to the major world markets. The country’s annual cashew production, which was 20,000 tonnes in 1998, is currently 1,60,000 tonnes (2008), an astounding eight fold increase. Innovative methods adopted for the concurrent development of technology, quality planting material & transfer of technology, through a highly effective farmer and customized training programme has yielded visible results.
Cashew is the ‘health nut of the world’ grown in poor soil, which is marginal & sub-marginal piece of land, where no other plant grows. Traditionally, cashew was never grown or cultivated, no fertilizer use to be applied and no irrigation was done. However, research has shown that normal agriculture practices such as manuring, irrigation and weeding almost doubles the yield of cashew.
In the raw nut trade, India buys nearly 95% of available raw nuts. India has also become the largest consumer of processed kernels in the last decade, considering the availability of the raw nut (carryover stocks) for processing and local consumption.
Advances made by India in the field of research and development in the production sector are also of the highest calibre, unmatched by any in the producing countries. Nutritionally, cashew occupies the top of the food pyramid. Its high selenium content, the richness of polyunsaturated fats and other useful phytochemical makes cashew one of the most sought after tree nut. Cashew’s exotic taste enhances its demand further.
Vietnam’s entry into the world cashew market in the last decade is noteworthy. It has become the third largest producer, processor and exporter of cashews, next only to India and Brazil. Vietnam also has adopted India’s tactics to purchase raw nuts from Africa to supplement their domestic production.
In order to remain a leader in this dynamic market India’s focus is on increasing domestic production and productivity especially in the organic sector. Enhancing private sector involvement in agriculture extension would enhance both the quantity and quality of services offered. Cashew producing states like Kerala is facing competition as older trees are getting less and less productive.
India can develop suitable technologies for conversion of fruits into wine and other similar products and probably its utilization as cattle feed, to provide additional income to the farmers. Development of cluster activity in this sphere would lead to commercial leveraging of this crop. Cashew fruit (apple) is one of the richest sources of vitamin C and proteins. It also finds importance in certain localized areas as an astringent in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Above all, with all the advantages that India has in Cashew Industry, it would grow many folds with Government – people participation. The role of middleman in the market should be diminished and Government procurement system should be strengthened so as to motivate farmers to grow this crop on a sustainable basis.
The need of the hour is that the farmers, the Government and the processing industry work hand in hand in the areas of production, processing and marketing, ensuring a better farm gate across the world market and enhanced prices to the farmers.