by Xuan Huong
BINH PHUOC (VNS)— The cashew industry has achieved impressive growth in recent years, with increasing exports, but a fall in the area under cultivation and other problems threaten its continued development.
To develop in a sustainable manner the industry requires appropriate development strategies, according to the Department of Crop Production.
Speaking at a forum on sustainable cashew development in Binh Phuoc Province last Thursday, Nguyen Nhu Hien, deputy head of the department, said Viet Nam had been one of the world's largest cashew exporters since 2006.
Exports were worth US$1.65 billion last year, the fourth largest agricultural export after rice, coffee, and rubber, he said.
But the industry now faced challenges, he said.
"Area under cashew shrank by 129,900ha in the last seven years to 310,000ha last year," he said, adding that "output dropped by 27,400 tonnes in the period."
Domestic production only met 30 per cent of the processing capacity in the country, he said.
"Cashew output has reduced relentlessly in recent years since farmers chopped down cashew trees to plant other crops for higher profits."
In addition, ageing trees and abnormal weather patterns had decreased yields, he said.
Phan Huy Thong, director of the National Agriculture Extension Centre, said: "Previously we thought that cashew trees should be planted in areas that are not suitable for other crops."
With seedlings and crop care not getting proper attention either, productivity was very low at around 900 kilogrammes per hectare, he said.
Nguyen Van Hoa, another department deputy director, said: "Farmers feared that cashew trees cannot have yields and so felt insecure to invest in them.
"However, in reality, productivity will see a big change if they receive sufficient care, fertilisers, and water."
Vuu Thi Mai, a cashew grower in Dong Tien commune in Binh Phuoc Province's Dong Phu District, who has 12ha of cashew, said she and other farmers joined hands to form a cashew production group with 330ha.
By applying farming techniques provided by agricultural experts, their productivity reached two tonnes per hectare on average, she said.
The farmers in the group also intercrop cocoa and other short-term crops with the cashew to increase incomes, she said.
Delegates at the forum suggested many measures to sustain the development of the cashew industry and improve incomes for farmers.
They suggested that the Government develop high-quality seedlings, support farmers to replace ageing cashew trees, and develop inter-cropping models.
Hoang Quoc Tuan, director of the Agriculture Planning Centre, said advanced technologies should be used in cashew cultivation to improve productivity and quality.
He also called for developing linkages among cashew growers and between growers and businesses.
The industry should consider grafting high-yield cashew seedlings with ageing and low-yielding trees, Hoang Trong Thuy, a cashew grower in Bu Gia Map District, Binh Phuoc, said. — VNS