After its wine policy began paying dividends to grape growers and the wine industry, the State Government has come under pressure from cashew growers to come up with a cashew apple beverage policy to promote alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.

Cashew growers are seeking a policy that will help them set up industries to produce alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from the thousands of tonnes of cashew apple that at present go waste.

It is estimated that Karnataka produces about four lakh tonnes of cashew apple every year. At present, growers remove only the cashew nut from the apple leaving the fruit to fall on the ground and rot.

Karnataka Coastal Development Authority Chairman and former Minister B. Nagaraj Shetty, and other small entrepreneurs have already started meeting growers in this regard. Horticulture Department officials and scientists told The Hindu that cashew apple produced in the State could be utilised for production of alcoholic beverages such as “Fenny” and non-alcoholic beverages and other products such as cashew juice, syrup, jam, candy, chutney and pickles.

Cashew is cultivated on 66,683 hectares of land in the State with an annual cashew nut production of 89,002 tonnes. The major cashew growing districts are Dakshina Kannada (29,197 hectares), Udupi (24,416 hectares), Belgaum (4,315 hectares), Kolar (2,999 hectares), Uttara Kannada (2,163 hectares), Kodagu (2,110 hectares) and Shimoga (1,483 hectares).

Mr. Shetty said a cashew beverage industry would create employment opportunities and generate substantial additional income for farmers.

Loans

As cashew apple product industries do not fall in the “preferential area” for grant of loans by financial institutions such as the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), cashew growers have been urging the Government to declare areas suitable for cashew cultivation and for setting up allied industries. Coastal districts and Western Ghats covering Kodagu, Shimoga and Belgaum as well as inland plains covering Kolar, Bangalore Rural and Tumkur districts should be declared as preferential areas, they said. This would help growers and industrialists obtain loans.

The Centre grants 25 per cent subsidy to agro and food processing industries up to a maximum investment of Rs. 50 lakh per unit. The State Government can recommend, to the Centre, extension of the subsidy scheme for cashew apple juice products manufacturing units also, a small cashew entrepreneur said.

Mr. Shetty said a policy that was prepared about a year ago in this regard, based on suggestions from various stakeholders, needed fine-tuning. The draft policy had suggested establishment of a cashew apple beverage institute, setting up of a single window system in districts, headed by the deputy commissioners so that facilities such as land, electricity, licence, and other incentives could be provided; declaration of the industry as agro-based and small-scale, and concessions in sales tax and excise duty on alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.