Good news for growers and processors:
A new lease of life for cashew industry
Cashew nut has developed a distinct identity in the world as a snack
food even in comparison with other competing tree nuts such as, almonds,
pistachio and walnuts. Its rich food value in terms of protein,
carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins are acceptable not only to
consumers, but also to medical and food scientist.
Cashew (Anacardiumoccidentale) was introduced from Brazil to Sri
Lanka by early Portuguese settlers in the 16th century and later spread
as a dry land crop in the drier parts of the country and now has become
an important agricultural crop. However, cashew cultivation caught the
eyes of agriculturists only after the Independence, particularly after
the establishment of the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation (SLCC) in 1973.
The SLCC in the 70s initiated successful programs to promote
cultivation and increase production. State owned commercial plantations
were established in the North, East and North Western provinces. As a
result, private plantations too were established, and cashew became one
of the important crops in Sri Lanka creating more employment
opportunities to a larger number of farmers and small-scale processors
in these provinces.
The distinguishing features of cashew crop are:
1. It is highly drought tolerant and can be cultivated in the dry
2. It gives good yields even under water scarcity conditions.
3. It gives the highest return for a given investment among
4. It is not as labour intensive as other plantation crops.
5. It is an easy marketable commodity, liked by many, with an export
Production and present status:
Cashew is cultivated in almost all the districts. The extents are
substantial in the dry zone especially in Puttalam, Vavuniya, Mannar,
Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Batticaloa and Hambantota.
Statistics show a slow and steady increase in production over the
last few years in other districts. Presently, approximately 42,000ha are
under cashew and produce around 10,000mt of raw nuts which is only about
50% of the local demand. Out of the total extent about 75% is in bearing
stage. The national average yield per tree is approximately 3-4
kg/tree/year which is far below the potential yield (10-15 kg/tree) and
yield obtained by many other cashew growing countries. The production
trend has to catch up fast so the during the next 10 to 15 years, the
country produces sufficient cashew nut to fulfill the local as well as
the export demand. Some of the major constraints responsible for poor
productivity are un organized orchards, poor agricultural methods,
pests, old heterogeneous population of trees, poor or low yielding
varieties and multiplication of plants from unknown pedigree stocks and
poor quality seeds.
On the other hand the latest export statistics show that, cashew
exports gaining momentum but at a slower rate during the last few years.
This does not, however, indicate that demand for export had dropped.
Therefore the full potential of the export market can be fully exploited
only if sufficient raw nuts are made available through increased
Unlike other crops in the plantation sector, cashew has received low
priority in development during the past and hence significant investment
programs have not been implemented to uplift this industry. Cashew is a
crop with tremendous potential, especially in the dry zone, where no
other competing plantation crop can be grown successfully, under
conditions of water scarcity. There is a potential for increasing
productivity up to 15 kg/tree/year by using improved
varieties and crop management practices. However steps are being
taken by the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation to cultivate about 5000 acres
per year and 25000 acres during the next six years.
Research and Development Efforts:
Recognizing the important factors of cultivation and constraints to
production and their contribution towards low productivity, the SLCC
together with Faculty of Agriculture and Plantation Management of the
Wayamba University of Sri Lanka developed a cashew research program to
address some of the key issues of production and its activities at
present. The activities of this project are based on the following
1. Development of improved varieties.
2. Generation of planting material.
3. Improvement of agro techniques and plant protection methods.
4. Efficient use of fertilizers and related inputs.
5. Improvement of post harvest techniques
6. Establishment of basic infrastructure facilities needed to
strengthen the vital areas of cashew research.
1.Development of improved varieties and quality planting material
Several cashew varieties have been cultivated in the past. Some of
the varieties were, Kondachchi, Mannar, Trinidad, Batticaloa,
Shanthigudu, Ulal, Vital and some indigenous types. They have been
propagated by seeds and continuous propagation by seeds without any
attempt to maintain varietal purity has had negative effects on
genotypes because of the cross pollination habit of cashew.
Non availability of any form of improved varieties and the use of
seedling progenies from mixture of unknown varieties has been one of the
most important causes for low productivity of cashew in Sri Lanka.
Therefore the importance of developing high yielding varieties and
production of quality grafted planting material from these high yielding
elite varieties was recognized.
A need of multiplying these materials and making them available to
growers, is given top priority under the present work plan of the Sri
Lanka Cashew Corporation.
a. New varieties: As a result of the collaborative research program
conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture, Wayamba University of Sri Lanka
and the SLCC, six new varieties were produced and released, three in
2005 and three in 2007.
The varieties are high yielding with a potential over 10kg/tree/year
and with medium to large kernels. They are all with ivory color and
trees have shown wide adaptability and uniformity.
These varieties would give a yield increase between 200 to 300% over
the existing production.
b. Planting Material Production Units: The five PM production units
(mother plant gardens) established in 5 locations are capable of
producing 1.6 M planting material to meet the national requirement as
identified by the ministerial policy document. This would enable the
SLCC to meet its PM targets and the future production plans. In the
past, production of PM had been a critical factor in many sectors where
non availability of PM at any given time has caused severe drawbacks in
meeting the production targets. Planting material production of new
varieties at Elluwankulama Estate (Puttalam district) owned by the Sri
Lanka Cashew Corporation continues at present and it is expected to
produce the required PM targets for 2011 onwards.
(Note: However, due to poor maintenance and lack of interest on above
mother plant gardens, by farmers expected results have not been able to
obtain. However a new lease of life has been given since June 2010 and
it is expected to deliver good results in 2012 onwards.)
2. Improvement of agro techniques and plant protection methods.
Several agronomic recommendations were developed for cashew
cultivation and have been introduced to farmers by the Sri Lanka Cashew
3. Efficient use of fertilizers and related inputs.
Soil and fertilizer related experiments were conducted and
recommendations were made on application of fertilizers.
a. Effect of different soil types on growth of cashew.
b. Suitable nursery media and fertilizer management in cashew
c. Detail recommendation on fertilizer application
d. Nutrient mapping of soil properties of Eluwankulam mother plant
4. Improvement of post-harvest techniques/Innovation of Byproducts
Preliminary studies on developing cashew syrup, vine and jam from
cashew apple have been conducted successfully and acceptable products
have been developed. Methodology of these products will be made
available for commercial level production after fine tuning. The cashew
shelling machine was also a result of the cashew research project
developed by an entrepreneur) with the assistance and guidance of Sri
Lanka Cashew Corporation.
5. Establishment of basic infrastructure facilities needed to
strengthen the vital areas of cashew research.
During the past 13 to 14 years, the research arm for the SLCC was
developed and strengthened, but was a slow process. Two small-scale
research laboratories were established at Kamandoluwa and Achchigewatte.
Limited amount of funds and facilities were provided to these two units.
Carder positions were created and Research staff was recruited to carry
out the activities. Research fields were identified and long-term
experiments were established. 200 acres at Elluwankulama was developed
in to germplasm conservation unit and major planting material production
unit while maintaining the mother plant stocks.
This would serve as a major mother plant conservation and
distribution unit for the whole country. All mother plants have been
characterized and well documented. Adaptive research trials were also
established in several locations in the country to test the adaptability
of recommendations in farmer fields. The research unit has been given a
new lease of life by giving it the necessary financial and other
administration support by the new board of directors by 2010.
6. New steps to be taken by the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation with the
approval of the Ministry of Minor Export Crops Promotion for the
development of the Cashew Industry.
* Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation will be introducing a new price
structure (a fixed price) for the benefit of the cashew farmers.
* Enable the farmer to make a substantial profit by the farmer by
selling their production to the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation at a high
* Ensure a steady local and foreign Market.
* The farmer to be protected and by guaranteeing the price of raw
* Introduction of a floor price depending on the production and the
demand * Steps will be taken to protect the farmer and the consumer from
exploitation by middle men who are not involved in the cultivation or
* The SLCC will be undertaking a project with the approval of the
Ministry to give out lands to investors and cultivators to grow cashew
in Mannar, Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts.
The writer is the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation