Srikakulam: Cashew growers of the Uddanam region have sent an SOS to the Andhra Pradesh government seeking a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce as back-to-back lockdowns have left them almost broke.

Known for cashews, more than 12,000 farmers are involved in the growing nuts in the Uddanam region. Over 30,000 hectares of land in Palasa, Mandasa, Meliaputti, Pathapatnam, Kanchili, Kaviti, and a few other Mandals are under cashew cultivation.

Apart from the Uddanam region, over 5,000 farmers in the tribal pockets in Srikakulam district are growing cashew nuts.

There are over 300 cashew processing units in Palasa region alone. All the units used to produce around 60,000 kgs of cashew kernels per day.

Since the government has not announced MSP for raw cashew, the farmers have been selling their crop to the traders and middlemen at low prices.

Like other crops, the input cost for the cashew has been increasing in the region due to climatic conditions. "If we get at least Rs16,000 per 80 kgs bag, we will earn some profit. If we sell 80 kgs bag of raw cashew kernels at Rs 6000 to Rs 8,000, we may not recover the investment," said, P Srinu Babu, cashew farmer in Uddanam region.

Post Titli cyclone in 2018, cashew farmers have been facing huge losses. Coupled with disease, the yield has decreased and the input cost has increased.

Processed cashew nut prices have been increasing for the past few years. However, farmers have been getting low prices for the produce.

"We have demanded the AP government to fix MSP for the cashew on the lines of other crops. We have urged them to procure cashew through government centers to save the growers," said K Eswar Rao, another farmer in the region.

The price of raw cashew nuts has dropped to Rs 50-80 a kg from Rs 100-130 a kg as the traders claim that the processing units have not been fully operational due to the Covid-19.

President of Industrial Estate and owner of a cashew processing unit, Palasa, Malla Rameswara Rao said that the area under cashew nut cultivation in the Srikakulam district has also declined and the cashew trees became older and the yield also decreased.

"Cashew growers in Srikakulam district managed to supply only 30 percent of the total requirement of the units in the district and they have been importing the raw cashew from African countries at high prices to operate the units," he added.

Cashew growers and traders are urging the state government to set up a Cashew Development Board as the growth of the cashew industry in Andhra Pradesh is witnessing a drastic fall in the last 10 years.

The cashew grown area in AP has reduced by 30 % in the last 10 years. In 2008 the land under cashew cultivation was 1, 82,000 hectares which have shrunk to 127,000 hectares now.

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