Ahead of the cashew season a checkout of the mood of cashew farmers in Canacona taluka. Farmers are looking forward to a good cashew season due to prospects of good crop and remunerative prices, says Albert Fernandes
For farm laborers in Canacona taluka, the cashew season which has just begun, is a special time to get work and earn a decent livelihood.
In the interiors regions of Canacona, especially Cotigao and pockets of Shristal, Agonda and Khola, nearly every farmhand is fully caught up in cashew work ahead of harvesting.
While some of them have their own plots many others take plots on rent so that the whole family is engaged in the plantation work until May.
The flowering of cashew crop begins in some places in December. And just before flowering commences those who take the crop on rent have to clean the plantation area. Once this is done, they have to constantly guard and protect the cashew trees from wild animals particularly monkeys who destroy the crop in no time. Usually one or two persons are always on a guard in any plantation for safe keeping of the crop.
So far the outlook on the crop during the current season is good. Climate conditions during the flowering stage have been encouraging and the cloudy atmosphere which is bad for the crop is eluded up to now. Farmers hope that the present favorable climate continues till the tender fruit is out.
According to Shivram Gaonkar, zonal agriculture officer, farmers are upbeat over the progress in flowering and because they have not noticed any major damage due to pest attack.
“Another reason why they are upbeat is the rate of cashew nut which is Rs 160 per kg this season as compared to Rs 90 to Rs 100 during the previous season,” said Goankar.
Most of the cashew plantation situated in the talukas of Quepem, Sanguem and Canacona are organic plantations by default whereby the use of chemical fertilisers is prohibited.
Farmers are advised to spray neem-based pesticides as and when the crop is affected by pests.
They are also informed to be alert to changes in weather conditions. In the event of weather turning cloudy they need to immediately go for neem pesticide spray so that the crop yield is not affected.
In case they see fruit drop due to burns, then they are advised to spray chloropyriphos diluted in water.
Gaonkar, also said that in order to get a good yield, soon after harvesting the plantation must be devoid of all leftovers of the previous season which if left behind results in stem-borers to the base. In case they detect stem-borers, farmers have to paint the base of cashew tree from the ground up to one to one-and-half metre with Selvin pesticide. By this preventive cultivators can expect at least 25 per cent more yield, he said.
It is equally important that irrigation facilities are provided with chemical fertilisers for better growth of the tree to give extra yield.
As far as area under cultivation is concerned, the agriculture department does not expect any significant increase. It is estimated that the forest department has about 300-400 hectares under cashew plantation in Gaondogrem and Cotigao areas while private cashew farmers have another 200-300 hectares.
The government gives subsidy to cultivators and a cashew farmer with minimum plantation size of 2,000 sq mts can avail of Rs 20,000 subsidy while the maximum area under the crop can be 40,000 sq mts, in which case the farmer gets subsidy up to Rs 80,000 subsidy. On one hectare area about 200 grafts can be grown while a four hectare plantation area can accommodate about 800 grafts. Prashat Amolkar from Khalwadem who has about one hectare area under cashew grafts expects very good yield this year.
“So far the flowering stage has been successful and the climate is suitable for a good crop,” said Ganesh Velip, Gulem, who has two-three hectare area under cashew and who has old as well as new grafts is similarly optimistic. He says that, the current season is expected to be very good and the yield will be higher.
Daya Tolu Gaonkar of Yedda in Cotigao has hybrid variety cashew grafts on an area of about one to 1.5 hectare. He uses organic fertilisers and maintains a neat and clean plantation. He says “Farmers shouldn’t just focus on getting better yield. They must also look towards the maintenance side.”
Santosh Desai who has an area of three hectare at Tudal in Gaondogrem is cheerful. He said, “I have mostly old trees, which are maintained well so they give good yield.”
According to history, the Portuguese introduced cashew into India and in Goa in 1570 AD. The trees adapted very well to local conditions and proliferated. In India, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra (west coast), Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal are the major cashew growing states.
Maharashtra leads in area, production and productivity. In Goa the crop is cultivated in about 55,000 hectares with an annual raw nut production estimated at 25,000 ton in 2014-15.
There are about 1,800 cashew nut processing units in India with processing capacity of about 12 lakh MT annually.
Indigenous production, however, is far inadequate to meet the raw nut requirement of the processing industries. Therefore, India is depending on large scale imports of raw nuts, mostly from African countries, for utilising the processing industry to its full capacity.
Consequent upon its recognition as a foreign exchange earning crop, cashew sought the attention of researchers in India in 1950’s. Then onwards cashew became an important commercial plantation crop in the coastal state of peninsular India in general and Goa in particular.
Though cashew was introduced into Goa way back in 16th century until recently it was grown as waste land crop. Research for increasing productivity, in fact was initiated about three decades ago in 1976. At that time, the cashew plantations in Goa occupied an area of 32,580 hectares with production estimated at about 7,500 tonnes.
Cultivators were ignorant of improved production practices and simply practiced the habit of gathering the apple for ‘feni’ and selling the nut for money without knowing the real economic potential of it.
Currently the ICAR Research Complex, Old Goa, conducts various research programmes after which there is some awareness of increasing productivity. However rapid urbanisation is threat to cashew plantations and area under acreage is decreasing.
An important cash crop cashew is remunerative to the farmer. ‘Feni’, made from the cashew fruit is an important part of cashew cultivation. After GI registration ‘feni’ is classified as a heritage drink of Goa and efforts are on to market it in outside states and also export.
The outlook for cashew crop in the forthcoming season is exciting because in 2015-16, cashew yield dropped significantly due to unsuitable climate. “It is not the case this year as the yield is expected to be very good,” says Gaonkar.
Goa’s cashew farming talukas are Sattari, Sanguem, Quepem, Canacona, Ponda, Bicholim and Pernem. In these talukas cashew is grown along the sloppy mountains.