It is perhaps not known to many that Panruti taluka in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu produces one of the finest variety of cashew nut in the world. Such is the demand for the Panruti cashew across the globe, that it has been titled as the ‘goldmine’ of Cuddalore.
Cashew nut cultivation and cashew nut processing in India has been a commercially viable industry for years. It is estimated that the raw cashew production in India is around 6,91,000 tonnes with the states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu contributing a sizeable share. The total area under cashew cultivation in India is around 8,68,000 hectares with an average productivity of 875 kg per hectare.
Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Puddukottai, Theni, Villupuram and Sivaganga are the major cashew clusters in Tamil Nadu dotted with export-oriented cashew production units, processing units and cottage industries. This highly labour-intensive industry has helped thousands of people get steady income with a significant portion of the cashews produced in Cuddalore processed and sold raw, roasted, splits, in the form of a paste and gravy to be used in dairy products, snacks, bakery products, confectioneries, beverages, ready to eat mixes, desserts and others across India.
Exporters and processing units prefer to stock up early in the season and so, raw nuts are purchased from the cultivators between March to May. The cashew nuts pass through several stages (boiling, deshelling, borma, peeling, grading and packing) before it reaches the market. Unboiled kernels, boiled kernels, average kernels, split kernels and graded nuts are the main products churned out in this district. W240 and W320 are the nuts available in Cuddalore that are reasonably priced, of good size and taste and incredibly soft.
Small and marginal farmers of this district will benefit immensely with some training on natural and ‘zero-budget’ farming, cashew grafts, intercropping, high-density planting and organic methods. This will help to enrich the soil and retain its moisture, increase productivity per hectare and increase area under production. Facilities like cold storage and warehouses will go a long way to quicken the processing process.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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