Cultivation and processing of cashew is expanding rapidly in many parts of the world. The South East Asian countries namely, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand have taken up cashew cultivation on a large scale. Brazil has initiated well organized state supported programme of cashew development. Research efforts are also in progress in Brazil (EMBRAPA - National Research Centre for Cashew, Fortaleza, Ceara State), Tanzania (Tanzanian Agricultural Research Organization Research Institute (TARO-RI), Naliendele (Mtwara) ; China (Hainan Cashew High Yield Research Centre, Hainan) ; Vietnam (Cashew Training Research Centre, Binh Duang and Australia (CSIRO Research Centre, Darwin).
As many African countries are establishing their own cashew processing units, India may not be able to further import raw cashewnuts from those countries to meet the domestic demand. This shortfall may partially be met by importing raw nuts from some South East Asian countries, which are yet to develop proper processing facilities.
The research institutions in the other countries even though are of recent origin, have already established data base of the literature which is already published from India. Further, the support which some of the countries like Vietnam are receiving from international organizations for research on cashew is also of concern to India. While in India cultivation of cashew is generally under low fertile soils, the South East Asian countries are taking up cashew cultivation in the best areas suitable for higher production.
In India, research and development efforts on cashew have resulted in achieving 5.3 times increase in production and 3.0 times increase in area from the base level of 1972-73 (Fig.7).
Fig.7 : Area, production and productivity of cashew at 5 years intervals (1972-2012)
This has been possible due to technological interventions and area expansion. Yield gap analysis revealed that the optimum production potential of cashew is yet to be tapped. Wide differences in yield existed between potential and actual yields. Similarly, there is a broad gap between potential and realizable yields. The challenges before us are much greater than before, and have to be addressed with strategic approaches utilizing innovations in science and technology. Past achievements are testimony for our success in addressing the challenges, which may need investment and concerted efforts in an integrated manner. Science and technology oriented development has been a driving force to face these challenges. Cashew research needs much more attention for conservation of genetic resources, utilization of wasteland, employment opportunity, reversing the declining profitability, cashew diversification etc.
Global climate change is now a reality and a major challenge for agricultural production systems. Climate change may pose problem for cashew cultivation since cashew is grown in ecologically sensitive areas such as coastal belts, hilly areas and areas with high rainfall and humidity. Cashew is generally grown as a rainfed crop and vagaries of weather may affect production from drylands, thereby influencing the stability of the nut production in the country. Strategic research on rainfed cashew may be a priority area, to insulate the farmer from high risk-proneness of dryland farming. Watershed development for raising productivity of rainfed cashew, insurance cover for risk-prone areas and marketing facilities are some of the areas which need more attention.
Development of promising technologies and their efficient transfer holds the key to increase the productivity and thereby increasing the raw cashewnut production in the country. However, challenges of low average national productivity of cashew needs to be addressed. It is also important to develop and expand domestic market for cashew kernels so that good price can be ensured for the raw nuts and thereby encouraging the farmers to grow cashew.