Saturday, May 7, 2011


Cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale) is native to Brazil under Family ANACARDIACEAE and is planted throughout the tropical regions of the world where it is a very important economic crop for some countries. This cashew nut grows in Malaysia especially on coastal area and estimated about 480 hectare cashew nut panted in 2010. Trees grow in protected areas in Malaysia and reach a height of about 30 feet with excessive branching system. The trees have large leathery alternate leaves with 5-7 inches long and prominently veined; the small fragrant pinkish flowers are produced from early spring through early summer. This article I write about cashew nut tree based on my own observation during my tenure as agriculture extension agent for almost 30 years.

As I do my observation , the fruit formed by the cashew tree is very unusual in that it looks like a small pear with the cashew nut hanging from the bottom of it. The cashew apple, as it is called, is about 2 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 inches in length in some varieties. The trees produce fruit very quickly, usually about 3 months after flowering; the fruit at maturity can be either bright red, orange-red or yellow in color, and is very aromatic. The cashew apple is often used in tropical regions for many important products such as wine, jellies, or refreshing drinks. The edible nut, however, is the most highly prized part of the the fruit, and is roasted and packaged for shipment to distant markets.

The cashew is a relative of poison ivy and the oil in the nutshell can cause a rash or other irritation to the skin--this why the nuts must be heated in order to render the oil less caustic. Never eat cashews raw since this caustic oil can cause significant problems for most people. After roasting, however, the cashew is one of the most delicious of nuts and is rich in protein and fat; the oil which is in the spongy layer of the shell is used in many commercial applications.

Cashews are easily propagated by seed, and seedlings may bear flowers by the second year when they are less than 3 feet in height. As long as they have good drainage, trees grow well over a wide range of soil types. Young trees must be protected from low temperatures because they will be damaged or even killed at 32°F. Older trees may have significant damage caused by frost or freeze, but usually will make a recovery. When planted in the landscape, trees should be in sheltered locations protected by more cold-hardy trees or buildings for optimum growth.

Cashews should be fertilized every 3 to 4 months with a good-quality complete fruit tree-type fertilizer and are very drought-tolerant, although they will grow better when supplied with regular irrigation. Superior varieties of cashews are available in many tropical countries, but most of the ones grown in Florida are seed-grown. If you have access to superior varieties, they can be propagated by veneer grafting, budding, or air-layering. There are very few, if any, serious pests of cashew; however, during the spring dry season, thrips may occasionally attack foliage and cause some defoliation.

Most of the people growing cashew here in Malaysia and other South East Asia Country do not grow the tree for its edible nut because they often save the seed to plant new trees to share with friends. The apple, however, is the source of an excellent juice or beverage and this is the common use of the tree here in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. The Young shoot or young leaves is a tasty source of 'ULAM' in Malaysia to be eaten raw with Sambal Belacan (See photo next and below). The cashew young leaves has a very sour taste.

Cashew germinates slowly and poorly; several nuts are usually planted to the hole and thinned later. Propagation is generally by seeds, but may be vegetative from grafting, air-layering or inarching. Planting should be done in situ as cashew seedlings do not transplant easily. Recommended spacing is 10 x 10 m, thinned to 20 x 20 m after about 10 years, with maximum planting of 250 trees/ha. Once established, field needs little care. Intercropping may be done the first few years, with cotton, peanut, or yams. Fruits are produced after three years, during which lower branches and suckers are removed. Full production is attained by 10th year and continues to bear until about 30 years old. In dry areas, like Tanzania, flowering occurs in dry season, and fruits mature in 2–3 months. Flowers and fruits in various degrees of development are often present in same panicle.

From flowering stage to ripe fruit requires about 3 months. Mature fruit falls to the ground where the 'apple' dries away. In wet weather, they are gathered each day and dried for 1–3 days. Mechanical means for shelling have been unsuccessful, so hand labor is required. Cashews are usually roasted in the shell (to make it brittle and oil less blistering), cracked, and nuts removed and vacuum packed. In India part of nuts are harvested from wild trees by people who augment their meager income from other crops grown on poor land. Kernels extracted by people skilled in breaking open the shells with wooden hammers without breaking the kernels. Nuts are separated from the fleshy pedicel and receptacle, seed coat removed by hand, and nuts dried. Fresh green nuts from Africa and the islands off southern India are shipped to precessing plants in Western India.

Yields and Economics
Yields are said to range from 0–48 kg/tree/year, with an average yield of 800–1,000 kg/ha. Heavy bearing trees often produce nuts considered too small for the trade. Indian field trials showed that fertilizers could increase yields of 15-year-old trees from less than 1 kg/tree to >4 and enabled 6 year olds to average 5.7. Regular applications of 250 g N, 150 g P2O5 and 150 g K2O/tree resulted in average yield increases of 700–1600 kg/ha. In Pernambuco, trees produced 1.5–24.0 kg each/year, averaging 10.3 kg per tree . At Pacajus (Ceara, Brazil) trees average 17.4 kg/yr with one tree bearing 48 kg/yr. Major producers of cashew nuts are India, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Kenya. In 1968 India planted over 224,000 ha in cashews to supply over 200 processing factories operating all year. In 1971 India produced 90,000 MT, the bulk exported to United States and USSR. Export price at US ports was $.33/kg. India imports green nuts from the African countries and processes them for resale. Import prices in 1971 in India was 1730 rupees/MT. Cashawa Gum is obtained from the West Indies, Portuguese East Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

I like to buy cashew nut beans during Hari Raya Festival as a snack food. I hope this article discussion able to provide information of cashew nut industry. There future great demand and niche market for cashew nut in Malaysia in future.


M Anem




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  2. Hello sir/madam
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