The cashew season in the State is when Goa produces world famous urrak and feni; most people consume urrak with Limca before the monsoons but feni is used throughout the year, often as a medicine.
It’s Urrak time in Goa once again. This is the time of the year when most of the Goans indulge in drinking the best of Urrak. Generally Urrak is drunk, mixed either with Limca or lime-based drink and consumed with exemplary taste and flavour. Thanks to the raw material cashew apple which is abundantly grown on the hilly slopes all across Goa.
The Portuguese had imported this cashew plant from Brazil to control soil erosion on the steep slopes typical to the Goan landscape.
The cashew tree is an important part of the Agrarian economy of Goa which has existed hundreds of years now. The advantage this crop has over other crops is that it requires minimal attention. The only requirement is to clear the shrubs and bushes in the plantation area just when the tree starts to flower. Come the month of January and the people involved in the cashew plantation get busy in clearing the plantation area. This is done to have an easy approach at the tree so that the cashew fruit could be easily collected.
The important part is the seed which fetches maximum cash to the owner.
The Urrak and Feni are extracted through a simple distillation process from the cashew apple juice. The first distillation is known as the Urrak and the second called Feni. The alcohol strength is measured by alcometer and is expressed in terms of volume/volume or GRAO. High GRAO means higher alcohol content and hence of superior quality. Urrak is normally made to have around 15 GRAO and Feni is between 20 to 22 GRAO.
In good old days almost all households had this glass vessel known as Garafao/Carbo for storing the distilled Urrak and Feni. The Garafaos would usually come in sizes of 18 or 27 bottles. And depending on one’s consumption for the whole year the number of Garafaos was decided. Whereas the Urrak is normally consumed for about three months during the cashew season the Feni is good to last for the whole year and beyond.
A cashew processing owner Mr Gaurav Boruskar, who is running a factory in Poinguinim for last 18 years, stated that there is no dearth of raw material or finance but due to non availability of labour, mostly female, it has become difficult to continue with their business.
Canacona has a sizeable area under cashew plantation. Main cashew produce comes from Agonda, Sristhal, Gaondongrim, Khotigao, Poinguinim and Loliem. Almost all the cashew seeds after sufficient drying are sold in the Canacona market. These seeds are further sold to the processing units in the Taluka. There are 4 processing units spread all over Canacona which on an average process over 2 lakh kgs of raw cashew nut producing 60,000 kg finished kernel, and 138,000 kg of nut shell which is hard pressed to extract 30,000 litres of shell oil which is sold at Rs 50 per litre. The cashew oil extracted is used to coat the wooden hull boats to give good protection from the harsh saline environment.
The farmer at 90% subsidy can buy the cashew apple juice extractor for SC and ST and 75% for others.
Shivram Gaonkar, the Canacona Z.A.O. stated that there was a steady increase of area and production of cashew nuts since last decade due to the efforts put in by the Zonal Agriculture office and he stresses that still lot of neglected land can be brought under cashew plantation