Srikakulam: The cashew growers and traders of Andhra Pradesh are urging the state government to form a cashew development board as the cashew industry in AP has been witnessing a drastic fall in the past 10 years.
The cashew growing area in the state has reduced by 30 per cent since 2008 from 1,82,000 Ha to 1,27,000 Ha. Similarly, the production has also come down from 1,12,000 Ha to 97.5 Ha, according to YSR Horticulture University.
Cyclones, COVID-19, and to top it all the cashew plants growing old in the absence of plantation of high-yield varieties are leading to scarcity of raw materials and affecting the productivity of the processing units, according to the cashew growers.
Cashew is grown in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, upland areas of East and West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam, Nellore (Kavali), coastal zone districts, and Chittoor (Satyavedu) district in the Rayalaseema zone in Andhra Pradesh in an area of about 1.26 lakh hectares with a production of one lakh metric tonnes.
Cashew processing is a well-established activity in Andhra Pradesh. A total of 175 processing units are running at Palasa in Srikakulam district and Vetapalem in Prakasam district with processing capacity of 95 MT which includes small and medium cashew industries.
In 2018, cyclone Titli destroyed cashew crop in over 1,600 hectares in parts in Srikakulam. The drop in cashew crop in Srikakulam and neighbouring Odisha due to cyclones has hit the cashew industry hard for years as the traders have been struggling to procure sufficient raw cashew nut from Srikakulam and have been depending on imports.
The president of Industrial Estate and owner of a cashew processing unit in Palasa, Malla Rameswara Rao, said the area used for cashew cultivation in Srikakulam district has declined, the cashew trees have become old, and the yield has decreased. The cashew growers in Srikakulam district managed to supply only 30 per cent of the total requirement of the units in the district and they have been importing raw cashew from African countries at high prices to operate the units, he added.
"We are appealing to the government to promote new varieties of cashew saplings to rescue the industry in the state. We demand the formation of a cashew development board so that all our issues get special attention and are resolved at the earliest," Mr. Rao said.