While the State government has launched a string of projects to promote cashew cultivation across Kerala, climate change is emerging as a serious threat to farmers. Rise in temperature and erratic rainfall are affecting the fruit-setting process, leading to huge losses. Cashew growers in Kannur and Kasaragod districts produce the largest volume of raw cashew nut (RCN) in the State and this year they were unable to come up with a good yield. “Climate change has affected the flowering and fruiting of the crop resulting in a grim harvest. The harsh summer caused the flowers to dry up and the unseasonal rain damaged the rest. The crop is highly vulnerable to the change in climate conditions and the nuts harvested after heavy rains will not have much market value. Though we have faced climate-related issues earlier, this time we were hit hard,” says Siju, a farmer. RCN procured from domestic farmers is considered first-rate and it often fetches a higher price compared to the nuts imported from African countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast. “It tastes better and the demand is always high, but this year, the produce was not available on market even in small quantities. The production very was marginal,” says R. Salim, a trader. The season between March and June is very important to all cashew-growing States that include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. “If the fallen nuts are damaged by the rains, there will not be any takers,” he adds. In order to maximise domestic production and avoid the exploitation of middlemen, the State government had launched an intensive procurement drive. All factories under Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) and Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Cooperative Society (CAPEX) were expected to buy the product directly sourced from the farmers. Despite the drive, the procurement was negligible due to the unprecedented dip in production. “Last year, we could procure around 3,000 tonnes of RCN locally, but high temperatures followed by heavy summer rains affected the crop this time. The RCN output from Aralam farm, a consistent supplier of the raw material, used to be around 400 tonnes. This season the production is less than 10 tonnes,” says S. Jayamohan, chairman, KSCDC. Usually, the government factories function with locally produced RCN during pre-Onam season, but this year, they had to depend on imports. “This was an unexpected setback and we had to wait for foreign consignments,” he says.