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  • Goan cashew takes a hit

    Apr 7th, 2024

    This year cashew farmers in Goa are literally going nuts as a long hard summer brings in its wake a bagful of woes. The cashew business is facing a downturn due to multiple factors ranging from the vagaries of the weather, pests, forest fires, lack of administrative foresight and absence of a definitive cashew policy. The once-thriving industry which is the pride of Goa is also a victim of rising labour costs.

    This has also had a heavy impact on production of Goa’s famed drink Feni and Urrack and producers are feeling the burden of these adversities. Though the demand for cashew apples, Feni and Urrack remains high, yet the profitability is dwindling due to a combination of factors.

    Flowering process of Cashews

    In Goa, we have three varieties of cashews– the early variety, the mid season variety and the late variety. Each cashew variety has three phases of flowering and yield.

    Dr A R Desai, former scientist, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) says, “The flowering in the first phase begins in mid November. The yield of this variety comes by end of January to beginning of February. In this phase there is 25% yield.


    The second phase of flowering of the early variety takes place in the first week of December. The yield of this phase comes by the end of February of mid-March. This phase’s yield varies from 40 to 50%.

    The third phase flowering of the early variety starts in January and the yield of the cashew apple and seed takes place in April to May. This phase brings about 25 to 30% yield.

    The mid-season cashew variety also has three phases of flowering. The difference in terms of flowering between the early variety and the mid-season variety is 15 to 20 days. The Mid- Season Variety also has three phases.

    The Late Cashew variety starts flowering 15 to 20 days after the Mid-season variety. The Late Cashew variety also has three phases. They give a yield by the first week of June. Sometimes they are affected by the early rains, Dr Desai disclosed.

    Factors affecting cashew 

    flowering and yield

    “This year I understand that there has been a delay in flowering and also the flowering is not good. The cashew flowering is affected by five factors. Three factors pertain to the weather, fourth one to pests whose growth is also linked to weather patterns and fifth is forest fires,” Dr Desai states.

    Elaborating further, Dr Desai says, that the first factor which affects cashew flowering and yield, is the difference between the day and night temperatures. The cashews flowering are sensitive to low temperatures, especially if the night temperature is less than 15 degrees. If the day temperature is high, it affects the cashew flowers as they dry up, as has happening in 2023-24 season.

    The second factor which has an impact of cashew flowering is fog. If there is continuous fog for three of four days it affects flowering. The third factor which affects flowering is climate change. Unseasonal rains in November, December or January affect the cashew crop of the respective variety which is due to flower at that particular point. Once it rains its after effects also affect the flowering. After the rains the general temperature drops, followed by a dry spell, this too affects cashew flowering, Dr Desai states. 

    The fourth factors affecting flowering and consequently the yield are pests. Goan cashew varieties are badly affected by pests such as the T-Mosquito. The T-Mosquito sucks the sap or the tissue juice from the new leaves which are called the new flush. The new flush gives rise to flowers. As mentioned earlier, the flowering of each variety takes place in three phases.

    The population of T-Mosquito increases when the temperatures are low. They also survive on other vegetables. When the temperature is suitable they come back to prey on Cashew flowers.  When the population of the T-Mosquito is more the early variety of cashew flowering is affected in the first phase. It reduces the yield since the flowers and flush dry up after being sucked by the T-Mosquito. Unseasonal rains lead to increase in the breeding of the T-Mosquito.

    The fifth factor which affects cashew flowering and yield is forest fires. Forest fires are mostly a man made calamity and are therefore set deliberately. Sometimes they are accidental, when there is dry grass by the roadside and somebody throws a lit match stick or cigarette. Generally hot weather does not lead to forest fires in Goa, Dr Desai clarifies.

    Problems faced by cashew 

    growers and distillers

    Clita Fernandes, a cashew farmer from Arambol said that this business has been going on for many years and due to all the factors such as climate change and low profit, people have stopped doing this business. “If we want to preserve our tradition and pass on this unique method of distillation to the next generation, then the government has to give us a helping hand,” she said.

    Precioso Soares, a cashew grower-cum-distiller from Loutolim said, “This year the T-Mosquito has destroyed a major part of his plantation. The mosquito sits on the new shoots and destroys them. Spraying pesticide this time did not have much effect. The cashews flower late in South Goa, so I will have to wait till mid-April to see the total production. But definitely the crop is less. We hope that with the second flowering, production will go up.”

    Regarding government support, he said, the subsidy for 2023 has not been received. “While Goan cashew nuts are exported, the government has to stop the flooding of Goan market with import of outside cashew nuts which are cheap,” Soares urged.

    Rosario Fernandes, a cashew distiller from Arambol demanded better prices for cashew beverages and good subsidies to preserve Goa’s traditional method of making Feni and Urrack which is time consuming and tedious. “I have difficulties in continuing this traditional business of making Feni and Urrack, due to the low market price. I’m also concerned over the decreased yield of cashews due to the unpredictable weather”

    Krishna Mashelkar, cashew farmer from Valpoi said, “This year the cashew production is low and the price too is low. The yield is so low that we have not distilled neither Urrack nor Feni. I used to distill four ‘bhati’ before Shigmo and about 20 ‘bhatis’ of feni in the season. This year the yield is very poor.”

    Naresh Ghodge, Proprietor of The Ghodge, Margao, a distributor for Zantye’s cashewnuts says they strictly sell Goan cashewnuts sourced from Kajuban, Savoi Verem and Savoikar from Sankhali. 

    Asked about the infiltration of cashews from other states and abroad into the Goan market, Ghodge said, “Cashewnuts from Chennai, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa find their way into the Goan market. Also cashew nuts from Benin, Ivory Coast, Cambodia and Vietnam are also sold in Goan market. These nuts are of lower grade and of sub standard variety and spoil the Goan market.”

    Uday Kalangutkar, Proprietor of UK Traders, Panjim said he sells only Goan cashews from Sankhali, Savoi Vere and Valpoi.

    “There is infiltration of cashew nuts from Kenya, Mozambique, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. The taste of Goan cashews is different due to the peculiar climate and soil. The taste of other cashew nuts is not good. The other cashews at seen at non-Goan vendors stocked in big bags.”

    Hansel Vaz, Founder of Cazulo Premium Feni said, 2022 was the worst year for cashew production. This year the flowers are delayed by two months. The increase in heat may burn the flowers. We are awaiting the second flowering to give better fruit, he said. 

    “The Agriculture Department should warn the farmers in advance about weather vagaries. The ICAR is making grafts for the last 40 years. How are the grafts facing up to climate change? Have the ICAR scientists studied this?” Vaz asked.

    “We distributed 1,000 cashew saplings of the Bali (Goan) variety. Every year at least one lakh Goan saplings should be planted. The ICAR and private nurseries are promoting Vengurla varieties, which is worst for making Feni. Goan varieties have bigger nuts and give more juice,” Hansel Vaz said.

    Mac Vaz, Founder President of Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association said, “The cashew crop which depends on vagaries of the weather has been badly affected. The good news is that the second stage flowering maybe better. There is need to promote the government schemes among the farmers and improve the system of production so that there is no attempt to compromise on the traditional Urrack and Feni production system to cut costs.”

    Denying the allegation that ICAR was only promoting non Goan varieties of cashews in Goa, Dr Desai said, “This is not true. In 1999 ICAR Goa developed Goa Cashew I (Bali II) variety for the very first time in the form of grafts. Subsequently, five more Goan varieties were developed.” 

    Government efforts at 

    supporting the cashew industry

    Nevil Alphonso, Director of Agriculture admitted, “This year the cashew flowering in some parts of Goa such as Salcete, Sanguem and Canacona has been delayed. This is because the flowering starts four months after the rains. This year there were rains in November, hence the delay. We are hoping that the second flowering in April and May will be better.”

    He said the cashew crop and Feni and Urrack are our heritage and the rural economy depends on it cashew production, distillation of Feni and Urrack. The market rate of raw nuts is Rs 112 per kg. The government gives a support price of Rs 150 and pays farmers the difference. For cashew plantation and replantation the government gives a grant of Rs 60,000 per hectare.

    In case of forest fires affecting the cashew plantation, the government pays affected farmers a compensation of Rs 40,000 per hectare. We also advise farmers to clear the boundaries by two metre in width and to keep the plantation clean. Alphonso also clarified that the labour costs which are rising are not reimbursed by the government. “We only give the support price,” he explained.

    “The best way to safeguard the cashew crop from the vagaries of the weather and pests is to do multiple croping. One has to plant different varieties of cashews so that they flower at different periods of time and circumvent the weather or the pests,” Dr Desai said.

    (With inputs from Makbul Malgimani, Pernem and Devendra Gaonkar, Valpoi)