TNN | Aug 31, 2015, 02.07 AM IST
VISAKHAPATNAM: The highland areas of north coastal AP are undergoing a visible change. The upland areas, which were originally known for their mango trees, now present a 'mixed' look. Cashew has become the most popular secondary crop, along with tamarind, jack fruit and even sweet tamarind and soapnut. Of these, only tamarind and sweet tamarind (also referred to as Madras or Thai tamarind) are large trees.
Planters from the region have been rather troubled by the manner in which mango has responded as a plantation crop, " Every once in two years, there is a bumper crop, but the next year it is bound to fail. Cashew acts as a balancing factor as it rarely fails. Sweet tamarind is also catching up in the market," said KV Madhava, a farmer from Gajapathinagaram in Vizianagaram district. Soil conservation expert BVNSE Sarma, who worked with the Soil Conservation Department, GoI, said, "At the end of the day these horticultural products should have a market. Mango has a great market, so does, cashew. Sweet tamarind is picking up along with jack fruit. In the case of soapnut the market is limited."Experts pointed out the market for soapnut is not more than 25,000 tonnes in AP. Hence there is need to replace it with jack fruit. In the case of sweet tamarind, mango, cashew, tamarind and jack fruit, the price is usually decided by the market forces.
However, they did sound a note of warning as far as tamarind is concerned. The experts said tamarind is a slow growing and steady yielding tree. Sarma said "Tamarind, soapnut and cashew are excellent soil binders and require very little water to survive. They do very well in soils which are well drained and ensure free seepage of rain and groundwater. More importantly, they ensure that the soil becomes more pest resistant."A kilo of loose sweet tamarind sells for Rs 200 and more. The prices of cashew are shooting up like never before. A kg of cashew fruit including the kernel is sold for Rs 100 a kilo. Farmers are keen to resort to the mixed method of horticulture, which ensures a balanced income. PSN Raju, a horticulturist from Uratla near Narsipatnam, said "at the end of the day we look for steady and trustworthy returns, not landslide returns, that would dry up sooner or later."