The Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development (DCCD) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, in a bid to reduce imports, has drawn up a plan to expand the area under the cashew and to double the production by 2025-26.
The cashew industry with a processing capacity of two million tonnes per annum has been depending on other producing countries in Africa and South-East Asia for almost half of its requirement for several decades. Venkatesh N Hubballi, Director, DCCD, said that under the Centre’s Mission Integrated Development for Horticulture 1.2 lakh hectares would be brought under the crop by 2020. Already 20,000 hectares were brought under cashew last year and this year 60,000 hectares would be added with a cost of ₹50 crore, he said.
He said the total production in 2017-18 is estimated at eight lakh tonnes from 10.42 lakh hectares.
Throughout the country, 14 lakh hectares of land were suitable for cashew cultivation, but not ideal for other crops because of the terrain/soil conditions, he said.
Choice of suitable cashew varieties for specific region and appropriate package of practices determines the final yield. More than 30 varieties, having exportable grade of cashew kernels, were released by different research institutes in the country, he said.
Hubballi said 43 model cashew nurseries are functioning for planting material production in various States. Clones of high yielding varieties are the only planting material and generation of clones has reached 12 million per year. At present, area with clones of high yielding varieties has reached 3.92 lakh hectares, he added.
Farmers, of late, have started showing interest in cashew cultivation as it is an economically viable crop because of its high commercial value. Cashew kernels are in great demand as whole and broken, apart from being used in confectionery and dessert. The shells contain a high quality oil known as cashew-nut shell liquid (CNSL) which has got wide industrial uses. Cashew apple is eaten fresh or mixed in fruit salads and a drink is prepared from the juice. Cashew can be distilled to produce alcoholic drink (fenny). Thus the economic advantage resultant from the utilisation of dry/waste land has attracted cashew from eight States under the crop in 2008-09 to 17 States at present, he said.