Guwahati, Nov. 4: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is looking towards the Northeast to increase cashew production meet the growing demand for the cash crop.
As a step in that direction, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is evaluating eight released varieties developed in different cashew-growing states, which will be suitable for the region, a non-traditional area in cashew production.
We are now looking at eight varieties of cashew nuts which can be grown quickly before the onset of rainfall, an official at the All India Coordinated Research Project on cashew in Barapani said.
Altogether 25 varieties were given, but eight were chosen to be grown early in the Northeast considering the rainfall situation, the official said.
A cooperating centre has been established under the project at the ICAR research complex for the Northeast at Barapani in Meghalaya.
The evaluation will help identify varieties suitable for the region. Apart from this activity, locally available germplasm — collection of genetic resources for an organism — having desirable yield attributes will also be collected and evaluated at this centre, the director of Karnataka-based Directorate of Cashew Research, M.G. Bhat, told The Telegraph.
Bhat said the promising germplasm lines would be involved in breeding programmes for developing varieties and hybrids suitable for the region.
The present area in the Northeast under cashew is about 20,000 hectares with a production of 15,000 tonnes.
Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura are the best states for cashew cultivation followed by Manipur barring Jiribam district.
There is good scope in the Northeast but farmers will have to emphasis more on scientific cultivation, the project official said.
The North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation (Neramac) is also setting up a cashew nut processing plant, which will produce four tonnes of raw cashew nuts daily in Mancachar district of Dhubri.
It should get commissioned by April next year, a senior Neramac official said.
The corporation had a cashew nut plant in Agartala, which was producing only 500kg per day, which was not enough. It is looking at a different location with increased production.
To meet the growing demand of cashew kernel in India and the international market, every year, 50,000 hectares of area is brought under cashew production by planting 10,000 million grafts at the rate of 200 plants per hectare.
India has the largest area under cashew production and stands as the second largest producer of cashew in the world. Vietnam, Ivory Coast and Brazil are Indias competitors for cashew production and export.
However, the country requires about 1.3 to 1.4 million tonnes of raw cashew nuts to cater to the needs of large processing units with 5 lakh workers, especially women.
The country is producing about 0.70 million tonnes of raw cashew nuts annually and exports about 0.11 million tones of cashew kernels to over 65 countries of the world, which brings about Rs 2,906 crore revenue.