[UPDATED] The cashew industry in Palawan will take five years to fully recover its contribution to national production following the damage inflicted by Typhoon Odette over the province, according to the Department of Agriculture-Palawan Research and Extension Station (DA-PRES).
PRES chief Librada Fuertes said they will conduct a consultative meeting with affected municipalities to plan the rehabilitation program of the cashew industry in Palawan beginning in 2022 onwards.
Based on the report submitted by Odette-affected towns to PRES, around 900,392 cashew trees were damaged and are subject to validation by DA. Roxas town, labeled as the cashew capital of Palawan, recorded the majority of the damage in the province, where 320,472 trees and 2,054.31 hectares of the area were affected.
“Sa ngayon, survive naman tayo sa typhoon. Ang kailangan na lang natin ay pagtulungan kung papaano ma-rehabilitate ‘yong cashew industry ng Roxas kasi sila, declared cashew capital ng Palawan. At napakataas ng produksyon natin sa munisipyo natin,” Fuertes said.
“Hindi naman siguro sobrang tagal (ng recovery) pero more or less ay nasa five years ito. Bibigyan talaga ng suporta ng high-value crops development program namin at saka ng local government units kasi may kaniya-kaniya na rin tayong pondo. Considering the fact na ang pondo ng LGU ay tataas because of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling,” she added.
The PRES has not yet finalized the cost of damage and cites the distance between affected towns as one of the challenges.
Some 35,000 cashew seedlings will be distributed by the DA along with bananas and other high-value fruit trees to affected farmers. Meetings will also be conducted to discuss plans for the distribution of livestock and poultry.
“Alam naman natin na ang kasoy is highly seasonal. Kailangan talaga niya ng intercrop or additional intervention para kumita ‘yong cashew farmers—Dapat ay naka-integrate, ‘yong tinatawag natin na diversification, meron din livestock, meron din poultry. Malaking tulong ito sa ating mga cashew farmer,” Fuertes explained.
Rehabilitation and gradual development plans in 2022
Fuertes said they will tap associations and cooperatives to help with the validation and will also consider the idea of procuring chainsaws to help in the pruning activities of cashew trees.
As the majority of trees were damaged, the department will plan what fertilizers and chemicals could support the cashew trees’ survival.
The department will also ensure that there is a continuous production of planting materials, not only grafted but also seeds. Each town should also have nurseries for their production and propagation of planting materials.
Close monitoring of trees will also be conducted to assure the prevention of pests and diseases and to provide outright solutions.
“Ituloy-tuloy ang expansion ng areas na pwedeng tamnan ng kasoy plus magkaroon ng demonstration site para makita ng farmers kung paano ang tamang pagku-culture ng kasoy as well as pagda-diversify—para meron income o mas tumaas ang income per unit area planted,” she said.
Government levels, from national to local units, must also collaborate on how to effectively help the industry recover as it cannot be done by one agency alone, Fuertes said. There will also be consultations conducted with associations to get their suggestions.
Fuertes said she believes that educating farmers is also part of the rehabilitation of the industry after the typhoon. The DA will do a massive training and information drive to guide the growers through the proper process of planting cashew trees, starting with associations and cooperatives.
“Karamihan sa mga farmer, hindi pa rin nila alam ang tamang distansya ng pagtatanim ng kasoy kasi akala nila mas maraming puno per hectare, mas marami ang production. Pero hindi nila alam na ang kasoy is a sun-loving tree, mas gusto ng kasoy na nagpi-penetrate ng maganda ang sunlight, ma-avoid nito ang pest and diseases na pwedeng umatake sa puno,” she said.
“Gusto rin namin malaman nila ang tamang pangangalaga ng kasoy, ‘yong pest and diseases kung paano i-eradicate. Kasi talagang it affects the production dahil ito’y mga peste na naturingan—kailangan din malaman ng mga grower ang tamang pagpa-process,” she added.
DA-PRES will also push for the value-adding to maximize the use of cashew trees aside from nuts as 90 percent of trees are left unutilized.
“Ini-encourage natin ‘yong iba pa na na-discourage na magtanim ng kasoy. Full package ang idi-discuss natin sa kanila during training, from point of production to point of processing,” she said.
Opportunity to improve cashew industry of Palawan
In a previous story, Fuertes admitted that Palawan still has a lot of catching up to do before it can match the capabilities of other cashew-producing countries, such as India.
“Opportunity na rin sa mga bagong magtatanim sa industriya kasi ang itatanim nila ay quality seedlings na rin coming from the Department of Agriculture. Ako rin ay nag-a-advise na kung ‘di kakayanin outright na ‘yong support (ay) maraming seedlings namin kasi limitado ang pondo, pwede na rin sila mag-identify ng trees na talagang marami magbunga, magaganda ang seeds, magaganda ‘yong kanilang apple para gamitin nila na apple,” she said.
“Ang market naman ngayon ay hindi particular kung anong variety ang ginagamit mo for as long as maganda ang quality, pwede naman,” she added.
The DA-PRES has six varieties of cashew at present and is still conducting selection and collection of different varieties of cashew.
Decline of Palawan’s share in the country’s production
According to the record of DA-PRES, about 90 percent of cashew production in the country is contributed by the province of Palawan. Unfortunately, Odette hit Palawan during the flowering season of cashew, which left the production area devastated.
“Syempre babagsak ang ating share pagdating sa production. Dahil sa international arena, kung ano ang data na nasa national level, ‘yon ang ibinabato natin sa international, ang production naman sa national ay galing lang sa Palawan—apektado ang ating production sa national hanggang doon sa international,” she said.
“Sa ngayon hindi ko pa ma-quantify (cost of damage) kasi wala pa akong international at national data with regards sa value ng production (loss)—babagsak talaga ang production, magiging mataas ang presyo ng kasoy,” she added.