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Most people, when they talk about cashew, refer only to the nuts. With the growing popularity of cashew nuts as a snack food and ingredients in bakery products, it is considered the most important product from cashew.
In the Philippines, Palawan is considered the cashew capital of the country supplying 90 percent of the nut requirement. Specifically, in Roxas, there are 1,161,576 fruit-bearing trees producing an average of 13,938 metric tons of nuts.
Due to the abundance of this fruit, cashew is the major One Town, One Product (OTOP) of Palawan. OTOP is a priority program of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs by promoting a specific product or service with competitive advantage in each city and municipality of the country. For the OTOP program, a projected 24,300 hectares was used for cashew plantation alone in 2004.
A versatile plant, cashew thrives well in Palawan's changing seasons. It is both drought-resistant and can survive heavy rainfall. Cashew bears fruit during dry season and never misses a year without bearing. It can also adapt to different soil types even on marginal and acidic lands where no other crop could thrive.
Most farmers grow cashew for the nuts. The apple only becomes a by-product of the cashew nut industry. The cashew apple is often referred as the pseudofruit (false fruit) becomes it is actually the swollen stalk of the true fruit which is the cashew nut.
Owing to the high astringency of cashew apples, they are seldom eaten fresh, thus completely neglected. Imagine how much of these fruits go to waste just so the country can achieve the cashew nut requirement in a commercial scale.
Concerned with this scenario, the Research Department of the Western Philippines University (WPU) in Aborlan, Palawan led by its researcher, Estrella B. Equiña, thought of how the unconsumed cashew apples could gain economic value for the Palaweños farmers. The group of Equiña, in collaboration with the Food Processing Center of WPU, developed a village-level processing to utilize the cashew apple. The group used the cashew apple as raw materials for producing profitable food products such as wine and prunes.
New product lines from cashew apple
The technology uses the fruits of the cashew as raw materials in the production of new line of products: wine and prune. The technology involved the natural extraction of the juice from the cashew apple through osmotic process wherein the natural fibers and membranes of the pulp filter the undesirable organic components that are responsible for the astringent and acrid taste of the juice. The extracted juice is now the material use to produce wine while the remaining pulp is use to make prune.
The wine is sparkling yellowish-brown when fermented from the juice extract of the cashew apple and becomes reddish-brown upon aging for more than a year. The developed technology for wine contains 10-12 percent of ethyl alcohol.
Meanwhile, the prune which comes from the pulp of the cashew fruit is brownish-black, plumy and sweet-sour in taste. The cashew prune is synonymous to the raisins, dates, and plums which can be eaten as snack food or dessert.
The cashew wine is being sold at 200 pesos a bottle while the prunes cost 110 a kilo.
Putting the technology into action
To put into operation the village-level cashew apple processing, the Turbudan Food Processor, registered business base in WPU, adopted the technology to commercialize the production of cashew wine and prunes.
The project was operated and managed by 17 personnel. For two months, the group was able to process 300 kgs of cashew apple in a day. In the report of Equiña, she cited that "the production output is 30% recovery yield for wine and 25% for the prunes which is equivalent to an annual production of 8,353 bottles of wine and 3,264 kgs of prunes." She also reported that the total project cost amounted to P 1,339,611 covering fixed capital investment of P 403,390 and P 936,221 working capital for two months.
The project is funded by the Commission on Higher education (CHED) and WPU. The Return on Investment (ROI) is 63.84% with a payback period of 1.52 years.
Instead of being a complete waste, the cashew farmers in Palawan are gaining profit from cashew apple. According to the report of Equiña, cashew apple is gradually gaining economic value of more than four times the value of the nuts. It also contributed to the creation of jobs in the countryside because more than half a million salary compensation has been flown into the economic stream of the community.
Since the inception of the project in 1990, this technology has been adopted by various Rural Improvement Clubs (RICs) around the country. Among them were RIC in Bataan, Cagayan de Oro, Roxas, Palaman, and Zambales along with other smallscale food processors.