With less than half of the demand for cashews being met in the country, cashew-processing industries in the country will face closure within the decade unless its cultivation is encouraged, said agricultural scientists at the Cashew Mela here on Saturday.
The annual fair, held at the Cashew Research Station of the University of Agriculture and Horticulture Sciences at Ullal, dealt with issues relating to cashew cultivation and showcasing latest techniques.
“Cashew is much in demand, while cashew crop is much neglected. Farmers are still beset by the mindset that cashew cultivation is laborious. Because of this, the domestic yield is around 8 lakh tonnes, while the demand is around 15 lakh tonnes,” said M. Gangadhara Nayak, Principal Scientist, Directorate of Cashew Research, Puttur.
Rest of the raw cashew was being imported, and even this is depleting as countries in South Asia have started setting up processing industries there, he said.
“At this rate, in the next eight years, there will be no cashew availability for processing industries here,” said Mr. Nayak.
He suggested that with intensive cultivation and use of technology, cashew production in the country could be doubled within the decade. While the traditional method employed is maintaining cashew trees in a 8m by 8m area (or around 80 trees per acres that fully develop in eight years), new “ultra high density” techniques can see up to 400 trees (or gaps of 3m by 3m) per acre that start to yield fruit after around six months, said Mr. Nayak.
Even in traditional methods – that is 80 trees per acre – there is enough space between trees to grow high-yield fruit and vegetables and maximize profits in a cashew plantation, said Sudhir Kamat, a cultivation sciences expert from Agriculture and Horticulture Centre in Brahmawar.
Among the ideas that were propounded at Cashew Mela on Saturday, the cultivation of papaya – in particular, the Thailand Red Lady variety – caught the fancy of farmers. Half an acre of land can take up to 500 papaya plants, which can yield up to Rs. 10,000 per week. “The variety lasts long, and so can be sold in far-off markets. The yields are almost continuous for two years. Cultivating papaya does not need much labour either,” said Sudhir Kamat of Agriculture and Horticulture Centre in Brahmawar.
The flipside, however, is that 10 grams of seeds – or about 600 plants – come at a price of Rs. 2,300; while a variety of fertilisers and chemicals is needed to ensure high yield in papaya plants.
Other alternatives to optimise the use of land included drumstick trees, ridge-gourd, ashgourd, watermelon, pumpkin, and pineapples, he said.
Intensive farming, use of technology can help double output in 10 years