Government finding ways to aid Palawan cashew farmers

A study funded by the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and conducted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) uncovered that cashew farmers in Palawan are facing financial difficulties, primarily due to the underutilization of cashew fruit, also known as "cashew apples."

This issue has led some farmers in the province to explore other high-value crops, despite Palawan being one of the leading cashew-producing provinces with cashew as its One Town, One Product (OTOP).

To address the problem, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. emphasized the importance of tapping into the untapped potential of cashew apples to boost the industry.

"Philippine cashew farmers are burdened with a low return on capital for their work. The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and the Philippine Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Agricultural Research or the DA-BAR partly attribute this to the underutilization of the components of the cashew fruit," he said in a conference held as a culminating activity of the DOST-Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) China project titled "Green Oil and Phytochemicals from Cashew."

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

Through its Emerging Innovation for Growth Department (EIGD), the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture has actively worked on fostering technology-based innovations among local enterprises in the Philippines.

This initiative aligns with SEARCA's 11th Five-Year Plan, which focuses on accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN).

One of SEARCA's studies, titled "Technology and Investment Profile of Cashew Products," highlights various products such as cashew wine, cashew prunes, cashew jelly, cashew jam, and salted cashew nuts. These products offer different ways to maximize the utility of cashew fruit using various technologies.

The Western Philippines University has taken the initiative to develop products from cashew apples.

The DA-BAR and the DA-Palawan Research and Experiment Station (DA-PRES) have supported improvements in cashew nut and apple products.

DA-PRES's research project, titled "Cashew Products Processing, Packaging, and Labeling," has focused on processing cashew apples and introducing modern packaging materials. These efforts have led to the development of various cashew apple products, which have gained economic value surpassing that of cashew nuts.

The study also outlines strategies to enhance the marketability and commercialization of these products, including promotional campaigns and farmer training sessions. Financial evaluation tools indicate that all cashew products demonstrate significant promise as lucrative investment opportunities.