A want of innovation and a delay in setting up a cluster for cashews aimed at boosting production, revenue and broad-basing opportunities, have adversely impacted the cashew industry in Panruti, Tamil Nadu’s cashew hub.
The scenario has compelled several cashew processing units in the region to cut down on their production over the years. The industry in Panruti may soon face a threat like of that in Kerala, if the government fails to come to its rescue, say exporters.
Panruti has identified itself with production of cashews, but the farmers are adopting virtually outdated, traditional and unscientific methods of cultivation. Consequently, the investment has been on the high side while output has reduced. Out of the total 1,42,000 hectares under cashew cultivation in Tamil Nadu, Panruti accounts for about 35,000 hectares. There are around 32 export-oriented cashew production units in Panruti besides 250 processing units and more than 500 cottage industries.
“Although at the national level, the yield of cashew nuts is 756 kg per hectare, Panruti and Tamil Nadu as a whole shows production levels of 478 kg per hectares. This is very bad from the point of view of the sustenance of farmers,” says M. Ramakrishnan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Cashew Exporters and Processors Association.
Farmers are also keeping their fingers crossed because of a lack of patronage from the government to increase the area under cultivation and quantity of processing. The old system of cultivation, lack of subsidies for purchase of machinery, hesitation on the part of farmers to switch over to cultivate hybrid varieties and adopt mechanisation, have been contributing to poor value realisation of produce. Most of the crops in Panruti are over 50 years old resulting in low yield, Mr. Ramakrishnan added.
For many years now, farmers in Panruti have been demanding a cluster for cashews and also for cold storage to keep the occupation going. While States like Kerala and Goa have been marching ahead, Tamil Nadu and more particularly Panruti has been lagging behind due to want of innovation.
“Thousands of farmers in the region are cultivating cashews on a large scale and they are supplying the raw nuts to the market. While the demand is on the rise, value realisation of our products is very meagre. The establishment of a cluster would not only benefit farmers but also those involved in the production, processing and marketing of cashews in the region,” says Gowthaman, a farmer of Panruti.
According to N. Malarvasagam, Managing Director of Srinivasa Cashews, “The industry also lacks a full-fledged warehousing facility and drying yard for nuts. The cashew nut Agricultural Export Zone (AEZ) in Kadampuliyur near Panruti does not suit the needs of the industry here and is now virtually under the control of a monopoly. The AEZ, a joint venture between the Government and a private player has now been leased and most of the export units have been using their own packaging and grading facilities.”