Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Goa takes fresh look at cashing in on cashews

Cashew farming may be centuries old in Goa, but the state’s cashew productivity is lower than the national average despite cashews occupying more than half of the total area under horticulture crops

12th February 2018, 03:22 Hrs

Karan Sehgal   

It’s almost impossible to think of Goa without cashews. Over the years, a significant percentage of state’s population has depended on cashew crop, whether for nuts or for apples or for making feni out of cashew juice.   

A cashew plant, which typically grows on waste lands and is meant for afforestation and soil conservation of hilly areas, is relatively lower in maintenance than other crops. Therefore, Goan farmers historically have shown inclination towards taking up its cultivation.   

However, today, the situation has become quite different because most cashew plantations are old and the yield is below average. A report by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) notes that Goa’s cashew productivity is lower than the national average despite cashews occupying more than half of the total area under horticulture crops.   

Given the pressing nature of this problem, NABARD is thinking of coming out with an area development scheme 2018-23, which will be aimed at doubling of cashew farmers’ income. The details about this scheme were shared recently during a seminar organised by NABARD.   

Under this scheme, NABARD has a well thought out plan wherein several agencies will support the farmers through all stages, right from raising bank finance to sowing of seeds to harvesting and marketing of crop. This scheme is likely to cover 95 villages in four blocks with one block each in Bicholim, Pernem, Sanguem and Quepem.   

The report released by NABARD during the seminar notes that epicotyl grafting and softwood grafting are more successful because it is easy to produce large number of grafts in a short period of time. The report makes for a compelling case for farmers to take up such vegetative methods like grafting rather than relying on traditional ways of seed propagation. In fact, the state government provides a lot of support for cashew plantation. And, NABARD intends to rope in all that support for the implementation of its scheme. For example, the planting material for cashew plantation is available through government nurseries, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Goa Bagyatdar, government farms in Kalay and Margao. So, it’s not going to be difficult at all for the farmers to get plantation material in the state.   

Moreover, the state government also provides an assured price for cashew nuts sold to registered traders. Besides, the Goa State Agricultural Marketing Board (GSAMB) also has an “agricultural produce arrival incentive scheme” under which each producer/seller gets a cash incentive of 25 paise per kilogram for raw cashew nuts.   

The state government also provides a subsidy under area expansion to encourage new cashew plantations. Meanwhile, subsidy is also provided for replacement of old plantations with new graft.   

Adequate support is available in the form of several government schemes and measures to make cashew cultivation profitable. For example, ICAR has developed high yielding varieties (HYV) of cashews, which are Goa 1 (Balli 2), Vengurla 4, Vengurla 7, Vengurla 8 and Bhaskara (Goa 11/6).   

Still, most cashew plantations are old and only a fraction of cashews processed in Goa are grown in the state. This is exactly why NABARD has thought of implementing its area development scheme to revolutionise cashew farming in the state.   

NABARD’s report says that it expects traditional cashew farmers who are looking to rejuvenate their plantations through HYV and few new farmers to avail the scheme. Under the scheme, the size of cashew plantation should be one hectare or 10,000 square meters. But the farmer may opt for bigger area for cultivation as well.   

NABARD further informed that 70 bank branches in the two blocks identified in North Goa and another 32 bank branches in the two blocks of South Goa will be participating in its area development scheme for cashew farmers.   

For maximising the return on investment, NABARD advises that cashew farmers can grow intercrops like groundnut, okra, turmeric, ginger and chillies in the first four years in the inter-space in plantations of regular space under mild undulations or plain fields. This will help farmers in earning income when cashew plant doesn’t start bearing fruit.   

A cashew plant typically starts bearing fruit after three-four years of planting. It reaches full bearing maturity in the tenth year, but it continues to give handsome yield for another 20 years. In the initial years of cashew plantation, inter crops will provide support in the form of income, which is much needed especially when cashew plant is yet to start bearing fruit. NABARD’s report also says that farmers can increase the yield of raw cashew nuts upto 4 or 5 kgs per tree by adopting improved production techniques over a period of four to five years. This is when conventional methods of cultivation don’t provide a yield of even one kg per tree.   

The farmers can get technical inputs for good agricultural practices, especially about spacing, inter cropping, manures, fertilizers from subject matter specialists from the state’s agriculture department, ICAR, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA).   

NABARD is trying to bring in the much needed change in how cashew cultivation is happening in the state. If farmers are actually successful in implementing this scheme, then, it will not only provide them good income, but it will also result in growth in feni manufacturing. Substantial growth in cashew production will also bring in export earnings. Moreover, it will allow youngsters to take up farming in a profitable way.   

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