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SEARCA-DA-BAR study recommends exploring cashew fruit potential for improved returns

Cashew fruit
Photo credit: Giovanni Sacchi

“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,” said Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. in his message at the conference themed “Advancing Cashew Industry through Green Technology” held last November 3 at Dusit Thani Manila.

Convened by the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI), the conference is a culminating activity of the DOST-Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) China project titled “Green Oil and Phytochemicals from Cashew.” The project uses green technologies to extract oil from cashews and apply it to various food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products.

The DA-BAR-funded SEARCA research showed that cashew farming in the Philippines has traditionally focused on the nuts, particularly in Palawan, the leading cashew-producing province, where cashew is the “One Town, One Product” (OTOP).

Through its Emerging for Innovation for Growth Department (EIGD), SEARCA is proactively fostering the development of technology-based innovations among local enterprises in the Philippines. This initiative aligns with SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan, which is focused on accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN).

Titled “Technology and Investment Profile of Cashew Products,” the SEARCA study highlighted products such as cashew wine, cashew prunes, cashew jelly, cashew jam, and salted cashew nuts, which offer different ways to maximize the utility of the cashew fruit using various technologies.

However, the study found that Palawan’s cashew farmers have struggled with low returns on their investments. This issue is partially linked to the underutilization of the cashew apple’s flesh, which constitutes a substantial 90% of the fruit. The primary reason for this underutilization is a lack of awareness about the cashew fruit’s processing potential.

“The study further suggests that this may be addressed by exploration of the fruit’s potential in processing or manufacturing,” Solidum said during the International Conference on Green Oil.

“To address this challenge and boost cashew farmers’ income, the Western Philippines University initiated product development for cashew apples,” said Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Center Director of SEARCA.

The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and the Department of Agriculture-Palawan Research and Experiment Station (DA-PRES) supported further improvements in cashew nut and apple products.

DA-PRES’s research project titled “Cashew Products Processing, Packaging, and Labeling” focused on processing cashew apples and introduced modern packaging materials. Various products from cashew apples, including those featured in the study, have been developed by DA-PRES.

“Cashew apple, once undervalued, has gained economic value surpassing four times that of cashew nuts,” Gregorio noted.

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

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

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture