The area under cashew plantation in India is growing at such a pace that the once known poor farmers’ fruit is now turning into the king of fruits in north-coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Estimates by the horticulture departments of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam reveal that the extent of cashew plantations (chiefly mixed with mango) is over 5 hundred thousand acres of land in the three districts, with a combined average yielding capacity of 15 hundred thousand tonnes of raw cashew with kernel.
P Nookala Rao, a proprietor of two cashew processing units in Palasa, said, “The average yield of the region in terms of processed cashew would roughly amount to 1 hundred thousand tonnes (after removing the kernel and peeling the skin) as 50% of the yield is either consumed or sold locally. Middlemen pay the farmers an average rate of Rs 125 per kilo for raw cashew with kernel. This cashew is further divided into four categories after being processed. Hence, this is one crop that provides good returns to the farmer as the procurement price is very high.” Regarding the high procurement price this year, KV Nair, a Vizag-based procurer for the units in Kerala, said, “I have been trading in cashew for over 20 years. I started as a small middleman in the early ’90s, touring Narsipatnam and Anakapalli areas.
The cashew cover was extremely limited with most of the mango plantations being mono-plantations. As a result, we used to pay Rs 1,000 per 88 kilo bag 24 years ago. The price steadily improved to Rs 3,500 per bag by 2010.
Today, thanks to the immense competition between procurers from Srikakulam district which has 330 units (with 260 in Palasa alone) and procurers from Kerala, the asking rate has more than tripled much to the benefit of farmers.” Dr R Subba Rao (retired scientist), who played a key role in promoting cashew hybrids of the Bapatla variety in north coastal AP in the early ’90s, said.
“The cashew research station at Bapatla has produced amazing hybrids that are highly suitable for the north coastal AP clime. They are all high yielding varieties which require little water and this has made all the difference. With both the yields and the demand increasing, the farmers have benefited from the market competition.”
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