Agri Business

Cashew takes root in non-traditional areas to help meet growing demand

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on September 29, 2020 Published on September 29, 2020

Cultivation of cashew, a tree crop that once dominated the Western Ghats regions of Goa, Coastal Karnataka and Kerala, has found its way into the non-traditional areas in plains across the country.

Following the government’s thrust to expand cashew cultivation in the country, farmers have been taking up cultivation of the nuts across several States.

Gurunath Odugoudar, a farmer from the Gadag district in North Karnataka, said that a major expansion programme began about three years ago in his region.

 

Convenient crop

Some farmers who had taken up cashew cultivation in a non-traditional area like Gadag five years ago, are very happy with the returns when compared to other plantation crops such as mango and field crops like groundnut.

Odugoudar said cashew cultivation is preferred because it incurs fewer maintenance costs, is easy to harvest, is non-perishable in nature and easy to market.

Agreeing with this, Santosh Saranadagoudar, a cashew grower from the Koppal district of Karnataka, said that growers can harvest the crop at their convenience and store it. Many other horticulture crops grown in the Koppal region must be harvested when ready and taken to the market immediately.

Terming cashew as a guarantee crop, Saranadagoudar, who grows the nuts in about 10 acres, said it is easy to manage and maintain.

Stating that plain areas such as Gadag and Koppal saw low rainfall from 2013-18, Saranadagoudar said there was severe water scarcity in the summer. Many farmers who were dependent on rain-fed mango plantations, were affected during April-May. Following this, some farmers started planting cashew as an intercrop with mango in Gadag region as it required less watering in summer compared to other horticultural crops in the region, he said.

Odugoudar said that raw cashew from Gadag had fetched premium rates, about ₹20-30 more per kg, compared to traditional area produce in the previous years.

It’s not just farmers in the dry lands of North Karnataka are have diversified into cashew cultivation. The area under cashew has been expanding in States such as Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, among others, said Venkatesh Hubballi, Director of the Kochi-based Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development.

Cashew cultivation can be expanded to another 14 lakh hectares in addition to the existing 11 lakh hectares in the country as the consumption of the nuts has been increasing by 15-20 per cent every year, Hubballi added.

Production of raw cashew nuts in the country stood at 7.42 lakh tonnes during 2018-19 as against 6.70 lakh tonnes in 2015-16.

Bola Rahul Kamath, proprietor of the Karkala-based Bola Surendra Kamath & Sons, had recently told BusinessLine that India imported around 7.5 lakh tonnes of raw cashew nuts in 2019.

Hubballi said around 78,434 hectares have been brought under cashew cultivation in traditional and non-traditional areas between 2015-16 and 2019-20 by the efforts of Central and State governments.

Stating that Odisha is leading in the expansion of area under cashew cultivation, Hubballi said it is covering more than 10,000 hectares per year. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu come next.

There is good potential to expand cashew cultivation in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat as well.

“India could become self-reliant in cashew production, if all the 14 lakh hectares come under cashew cultivation. There will be no need to import at all,” Hubballi added.

Processing

K Prakash Rao, partner at the Mangaluru-based Kalbavi Cashews, said that when the cashew sapling was first introduced by the Portuguese to Goa, cultivation spread to neighbouring States of Karnataka and Kerala. Following this, the cashew-processing industry developed and was concentrated in these three States. With cashew plantations expanding to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, they, too, became processing centres.

Now, with mechanisation becoming the order of the day, cashew processing facilities have been coming up across the country, where the imported raw cashew nuts are processed.

Rao said Gujarat has over 50 cashew processing units, all in the tiny and MSME sector. Similarly, factories are now coming up in Mumbai, Delhi, and Rajasthan, Rao said.

To a query on the prospects of setting up processing units in non-traditional areas, Odugoudar said Gadag farmers have planned for it under the Rurban scheme.

India has around 3,000 cashew processing units, including those in the tiny and MSME sector. According to Karnataka Cashew Manufacturers’ Association, the State has around 300 cashew processing units.

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Published on September 29, 2020
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