Cashew which was introduced by the Portuguese in Goa some five centuries back has become an important cash crop of Goa. The cashew season in the state has begun and the farmers are hoping for a good cashew yield as the climate so far is looking conducive for the crop.
This season the climate is normal and there was good chill in the air in the beginning and so we are expecting good cashew yield, said some of the cashew farmers.
The cashew nuts are currently priced at Rs 131 per kg however the prices go on fluctuating throughout the season. According to the information available from the agricultural sources, the climate has been normal till now and the flowering has begun and as of now, the climatic conditions are favourable and so the hopes of farmers have soared.
According to information available from the sources, the production of cashew in Goa in 2012-13 was 23,804 tonnes, while the estimated area under cashew cultivation was 55,747 hectares. In the year 2013-14, the production of cashew increased to 24,332 tonnes and the estimated area under cultivation also increased to 55,936 hectares. In 2014-15, the production of the crop further increased to 25,011 tonnes and the estimated area under cultivation was 56,079 hectares. The production of cashew in 2015-16 was 17,549 tonnes while the cashew yield increased to 24,396 tonnes in the year 2016-17, while the cashew yield further increased to 28,012 tonnes in the year 2017-18.
The cashew nuts yield is showing increase over the last three years in the state, however, productivity of cashew plantations often deteriorates due to soil erosion and non-application of any nutrients. To get around this problem the agriculture department provides assistance in kind like neem cake, rock phosphate, gap filling of cashew grafts and the farmers need to take benefit of the various schemes of the agricultural department.
Some stakeholders said that, there is scope for improvement in cashew cultivation. The distance between two or more cashew trees is quite large, especially in the traditional cashew plantations on the hill, and more trees could be planted at these areas to increase density of trees per hectare, which would push up the output without increasing the area under cultivation.
Earlier there used to be hardly any fire incidents in the cashew plantations, however, in the recent years the number of fire incidents in the cashew plantations have increased. One of the reason for the increase in the fire breakouts could be that the practice of ‘aagist’ or a fire cover for cashew plantations is hardly carried out by the farmers in their plantations.
The cashew season spans from February to May, however, the famers started clearing the bushes in the cashew plantation much before the season begins and at some places the plantation owner along with other farmers put ‘aagist’ or a fire cover for cashew plantations wherein a grass patch of around one or two metres is selected about three metres from the boundary of cashew plantations on a hill and it is set on fire. The fire is later extinguished. This practice creates a protective belt around the plantations and helps in reducing the risk of fire incidents.
Feni which is prepared from cashew apple also gives good business to the cashew farmers during the season. “It may be noted that the cashew fruits which are collected by moving around the cashew plantations, which are mostly on the hills, are gathered into a Kolambi. A Kolambi is a natural rock having shape of a basin, selected for crushing cashew apples after separating the nuts and the Kolambi has a narrow channel to allow the juice to flow into a container, however nowadays some build artificial Kolambi and few even use machines for crushing, mostly who make Feni in large amount and preparing Feni requires hard work and it is a tedious job,” said Nandkishore Nhanji, a cashew farmer.
This season if there is good cashew yield as it looks so, plenty of cashew apples are expected to be available for Feni distillers. As the cashew apples are crushed the juice begins to flow into a container and once the quota of collected cashew is crushed after around half hour pure juice trickles down from the Kolambi called as ‘Niro’. There is good demand for Niro and people come even to the cashew plantations to buy Niro. These cashew days there are many a places one can see with Niro in the bottles kept for sale, mostly along roadside. The price of a bottle of Niro varies according to the place and it is priced at around Rs 100 to 200 for one litre bottle.
While speaking a farmer said that the younger generation need to be encouraged to get involved in the agriculture job, especially cashew plantation as cashew is in good demand and that the government should come forward with some scheme which will encourage the younger generation to come into agriculture and if we see today the young generation is shy from doing this hard work business since they are educated and this is not a very lucrative job. The government also should look into the various problems we are facing and solve our problems, he added.
There is scope for improvement of the cashew crop and intercropping in the cashew plantations could be also carried out. To boost the agriculture in the state the government provides the farmers with various schemes and the young generation should take benefits from them and venture into agriculture business.
Especially the younger generation should come forward and take interest in the farming activities and work in this field, said the sources.