Study urges government to explore cashew potential

A study led by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is urging government to explore the potential of cashew fruits to boost farmer income.

The SEARCA study funded by the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Agricultural Research, found that cashew apple's flesh is underutilized even though it constitutes 90 percent of the fruit. Farmer focus is only on cashew nuts, especially in Palawan which leads in the production of the crop.

The study also highlighted products such as wine, prunes, jelly, jam and salted cashew nuts, as among the different ways of maximizing the utility of the cashew fruit using various technologies.

It also found that Palawan's cashew farmers have struggled with low returns on their investments, the issue partially linked to the underutilization of the cashew apple's flesh due to the lack of awareness of its processing potential.

To address the challenge, Dr. Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said the Western Philippines University and the various DA attached agencies as the Bureau of Agricultural Research and the Palawan Research and Experiment Station (PRES) initiated product development studies to optimize both cashew nut and apple fruit use.

"Cashew apple, once undervalued, has gained economic value surpassing four times that of cashew nuts," Gregorio said.

Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum Jr., also cited the potential of cashew in renewable technology applications by extracting oil from the fruit for various food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic product applications.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show cashew nut production totaling 123,760.66 metric tons (MT) in 2022, down 51.6 percent from 255,931.01 MT in 2021.

Last year, Palawan supplied 117,836.32 or 95.2 percent of the fruit produced in 2022. The province also provided 250,126.46 MT of the fruit in 2021 or 97.7 percent of production during the period.