Palawan is country’s cashew capital

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Truth be told, the cashew sold in Antipolo are grown and produced in Palawan, the topmost cashew-producing province and the country’s cashew capital.

Cashew, kasuy in Tagalog or balugod in Ilocano, is the leading nut crop in the Philippines and the third most important nut in the world after almond and hazelnut. With 24,345 hectares planted to cashew, Palawan accounts for 90 percent of the country’s annual total cashew production estimated at 116,900 tons.

As of the latest data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, there are 3.1 million cashew trees planted in 20 municipalities in Palawan. The total hectarage yields approximately 106,256 MT per year. The top three cashew-producing municipalities are Roxas, El Nido, and Dumaran.

In 2006, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan declared cashew as the provincial One Town, One Product or OTOP with eight towns taking on cashew as its municipal OTOP. The town of Roxas, with its own cashew production village, is the province’s cashew capital and celebrated the Cashew Festival Week every second week of May.

Essentially, the cashew industry in Palawan includes the processing of the nuts into salted, fried, roasted, brittle, caramelized, and recently, chocolate-coated. The cashew apple is also processed into prunes, wine, vinegar and juice – a development pioneered by the Western Philippines University. There are also the cashew tarts, otap and cakes.

The processed nuts sold in the local market are either split-type or whole kernel.

Split nuts are easier to produce or “decorticate” than whole kernel nuts.

Presently, the split-type nuts are sold at P250-P300 per kilo while the whole kernel nuts are sold at P350-P400 per kilo.

Majority of the farmers sell their raw nuts to local traders and processors. Established traders ship the raw nuts to Metro Manila and these are processed in Antipolo for marketing to food manufacturers like Selecta, Nestle, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon.

An very promising by-product is the cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL), a brownish, sticky and caustic substance extracted from the dried testa of the seed or nut. The CNSL is an industrial ingredient in the manufacture of “cardolite,” a raw material used in brake linings, resins, paints, varnishes, indelible inks, lubricants and other preservatives. It is also used as germicide, with one Filipino entrepreneur winning an international award using the cashew by-product to remove facial warts.

There are many agencies, both local and national, that identify cashew as a priority crop or product for development. The Department of Agriculture (DA) works on the production and supply side along with the Municipal Agriculture’s Office of the local government. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) meanwhile focuses on the marketing of processed cashew products while the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) assists in the research and development.

For a coordinative and integrated implementation of the cashew development program, the Palawan Cashew Industry Council was organized initially composed of the DA, DTI, DOST, the local government unit, the Palawan Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc., the Palawan Food Processors Association and a farmer sector representative. Although coordinative and oversight in function, the council would avoid duplication of interventions but promote complementation efforts.

This council can study and recommend actions to address the many issues and concerns of the industry. In spite of the status of being the leading producer of cashew in the country, Palawan’s cashew industry is also beset by problems like low level of production, lack of product/marketing development, and lack of financing for post-harvest facilities.

With the enhanced relationship of concerned agencies bringing to fore President Benigno Aquino’s private-public partnership (PPP) program, Palawan will steadily grow into its full potential to become not only as the country’s foremost cashew industry but perhaps, the cashew capital of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

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