Visakhapatnam, Dec. 9
THE Department of Horticulture and the Agriculture Export Development Agency (APEDA) have drawn up a blueprint to increase cashew production by motivating farmers in the coastal districts to go in for high-yielding grafts. They have also decided to encourage the eco-friendly, steam-boiled processing method. Plant grafts brought from Bapatla (Andhra Pradesh), Vengurla (Maharashtra) and Vriddhachalam (Tamil Nadu) cashew research stations are being supplied to farmers.
"At present, we are doing well in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, East and West Godavari districts in cashew plantation. We want to produce more by increasing the area and encourage farmers to go in for the jumbo variety and follow better management practices," the Deputy Director (cashew project) of Horticulture, Mr R. Vaikunta Rao, said.
Among the five districts, West Godavari leads with farming over 42,700 hectares, followed by 37,593 hectares in Visakhapatnam, 35,756 hectares in East Godavari, 22,600 hectares in Vizianagaram and 19,268 hectares in Srikakulam district.
As against the national average of 720 kg per hectare, the State is able to get a per-hectare yield of 600 kg. "The yield is linked to maintenance and management practices by the farmers," said the Assistant Director of Horticulture, Mr R. Srinivasa Rao.
In the five districts, the yield is on an average four kg per tree and the total production is over 70,000 tonnes. The Horticulture Department has opened a farm in each district to motivate growers to opt for grafts supplied by it. The department is giving a subsidy of 50 per cent.
Processing plants: Due to the popularity of the Palasa cashew and the location of the town on the Orissa-Andhra border, processing plants are concentrated in and around Palasa-Kasibugga. Srikakulam district has 160 plants, the highest among the five districts, followed by East Godavari - 20, Visakhapatnam - 11, West Godavari - three and two in Vizianagaram.
The growers are being advised to adopt steam-boiled processing instead of the drum roasting system. Several batches of farmers were also sent to Goa and Tamil Nadu to study the processing techniques followed there. Plans have been drawn up to popularise oil bath roasting technique popular in Goa.
A steam-boiled processing plant is being set up on an experimental basis at Sitammapeta in Srikakulam with the objective of creating awareness among the tribals. The response for the project is good and many farmers have shown interest to set up plants. The Government is offering 25 per cent investment subsidy.
Co-operative societies: As the growers are not getting a good price, it has been proposed to form co-operative societies with the help of Andhra Pradesh Industrial and Technical Consultancy Organisation (APITCO) for organised marketing from next year. This will help in preventing the middlemen from cheating small farmers.