Cashew fruit seen as profitable commodity

PRODUCING products from the cashew apple can be a profitable venture, based on discussions during the conference themed "Advancing Cashew Industry through Green Technology" held on November 3 at Dusit Thani Manila.

The conference was convened by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST)-Industrial Technology Development Institute that is the culminating activity of the DoST-Ministry of Science and Technology China project titled "Green Oil and Phytochemicals from Cashew."

This project seeks the utilization of green technologies to extract oil from cashew for applications in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

During the conference, DoST Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. said that the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) see an "underutilization of the components of the cashew fruit."

The DA-BAR-funded SEARCA research showed that cashew farming in the Philippines has traditionally focused on nuts, based on its study in Palawan. The province is the country's leading cashew-producing province, where commodity is the "One Town, One Product" or OTOP.

The SEARCA study titled "Technology and Investment Profile of Cashew Products" highlighted products such as cashew wine, cashew prunes, cashew jelly, cashew jam and salted cashew nuts, which maximizes the utility of the cashew apple using various technologies.

But the study showed that Palawan's cashew farmers have struggled with low returns on their investments.

The study said this issue is partially linked to the underutilization of the cashew apple's flesh, which constitutes a substantial 90 percent of the fruit.

"The study further suggests that this may be addressed by exploration of the fruit's potential in processing or manufacturing," Solidum said.

Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said that in a move to address this challenge and boost cashew farmers' income, the Western Philippines University in Palawan has initiated development of products from the cashew apple.

He said the DA-BAR and the DA-Palawan Research and Experiment Station (DA-PRES) supported further improvements in products utilizing the cashew nut and apple.

A research project by the DA-PRES titled "Cashew Products Processing, Packaging and Labeling" focused on processing cashew apples and introduced modern packaging materials.

Gregorio said the DA-PRES has also developed various products from cashew apples, including those featured in the study. "Cashew apple, once undervalued, has gained economic value surpassing four times that of cashew nuts."

"The study also outlined strategies to enhance the marketability and commercialization of these products," Gregorio said, adding that the DA-PRES has also contributed by organizing promotional campaigns and farmer training sessions, stimulating interest in value-adding activities.

To conduct a thorough assessment of the financial viability of each product, the study used financial evaluation tools, including net present value, benefit-cost ratio and financial internal rate of return.

"The results of this analysis indicated that all cashew products exceeded the predefined criteria for financial viability. These findings strongly suggest that cashew wine, cashew prunes, cashew jelly, cashew jam and salted cashew nuts all exhibit considerable promise as lucrative investment opportunities," Gregorio said.