Cashew growers face uncertain future 13-03-2013

Though Viet Nam maintained its position as the world's top cashew nut exporter after attaining exports of US$1.45 billion last year, analysts are not confident about the cashew industry's sustainable development because of its lack of competitiveness and decrease in yield.

The cashew sector must be revamped, and the technique of growing cashew trees from nuts must be jettisoned, they warned, saying saplings should be used instead.

Last year Viet Nam harvested nearly 290,000 tonnes of cashew from over 330,000 hectares, meaning a yield of 0.91 tonnes per hectare. It had been 1.07 tonnes in 2007. As the cashew industry has to import up to 50 per cent of raw materials for processing and export of cashew products, the analysts said Viet Nam could turn into a cashew-processing country. The area under cashew cultivation has been reduced since 2009 while the yields have been inconsistent. The area under high-yielding varieties is only 40 per cent of the total area under cashew. In the remaining areas, the yield is only between 0.7 and 0.9 tonnes per hectare, worth about VND24 million, or just over $1,000. As a result many cashew farmers have switched to crops that bring them a higher income. How to reduce the import of raw cashew for processing is now among the challenges facing the country. 

Recently the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development zoned 150,000ha for high-yield cashew in Binh Phuoc Province and another 50,000ha in Dong Nai Province, the two provinces with the highest cashew yields in the country. Experts said farmers would not switch to other crops if the yield in these areas reaches two or three tonnes per hectare. The Ministry also has plans to zone 200,000ha for intensive cashew cultivation with an average yield of three tonnes per hectare. The plan, if realised, could make the master plan for the development of the cashew sector more feasible. Dr Bui Chi Buu, head of the Southern Institute for Agricultural Technology, said to achieve sustainable development, the cashew industry must be revamped with more investment in technology and better training for human resources. Buu said planting cashew nuts must be stopped and farmers should use saplings instead. The quality is poor if nuts are used, he explained. 

According to the Viet Nam Cashew Association, measures to ensure sustainable development of the cashew sector must include financial support for cashew farmers, improvement and diversification of cashew products, improvement in technologies, and building of brand names for cashew products. In 2013 more trade barriers would be imposed by importers of farm produce including cashew, the association warned. Many cashew firms will then remain mired in financial difficulties and be forced to cut back on production or even shut down. 

Source: VNS

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