Goa cashew farmers lose interest in Urrak drink, blames low market prices

Urrak, an alcoholic brew, is distilled during the summer from March to May from ripe cashew apples while the nuts are sold by cashew farmers in the market

   
Cashew farmers in Goa making Urrak drink

Cashew farmers in Goa have been unenthusiastic about brewing the seasonal Urrak drink from the fruit this year as they claim these nuts has been fetching a low price in the market.

The seasonal business of harvesting cashew across hills of the coastal state has become uneconomical for them, they said, adding the government should address their concerns.

An official from the Goa agriculture department said there has been a low demand of local cashew nuts for roasting purposes.

Also, a decrease in the number of cashew processing units in the state has also reduced the demand for these local nuts though they are in demand among tourists for their rich taste, he said.

Urrak, an alcoholic brew, is distilled during the summer months of March to May from ripe cashew apples while the nuts (which are part of the fruit) are sold by farmers in the market.

Gauresh Velip, who along with his three friends has taken a cashew plantation on rent at Quitla village in South Goa’s Quepem taluka, told PTI that the cashew nuts have been fetching a low price of Rs 111 per kilogram, compared to last year’s rate of Rs 120 per Kg.

“The only way we can continue harvesting cashews is by getting a good price for the nuts,” he said. Velip claimed it is not economical to harvest cashews from the money that a farmer earns from Urrak.

A one litre bottle of Urrack costs Rs 250 in the market as of now, but the rate will get reduced as the season comes to an end, he said.

As per the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) records, cashew plantation in Goa is spread over 55,302 hectare area with an annual production estimated at 27,070 tonnes.

The cashew plantation occupies the largest area among horticulture crops in the state, according to the ICAR.

Rupesh Velip, a leader of the Scheduled Tribe community from South Goa, said the government should address concerns of the cashew harvesters as it is their only source of income during the summer season.

“For generations, these tribals have been harvesting cashews and also growing paddy in their fields. They are not dependent on government jobs. They feed the population, but they don’t get respect and support,” he claimed.

H said the state government should procure the cashew nuts at a higher rate so that farmers are compensated for their hard work.

Farmer Anand Gaonkar, from Morpirla village in South Goa, said several tribals spend three months of the year in forests away from their families to grow cashews.

Brewing Urrack is not a part-time job, he said, adding ‘it requires full time dedication and massive hard work.’

A senior official from the agriculture department said local cashews are not in demand for roasting purposes as industries import them at a cheaper rate.

“The wholesale purchase of raw cashew nuts costs them (industries) as low as Rs 50 per kg,” he said. He, however, agreed that in the terms of taste, Goa’s cashews are the best and are in demand among tourists.

A decrease in the number of cashew processing units has also reduced the demand for these local nuts, the official said. “Two decades back, there were 30-40 cashew processing industries while now there are just 8-10 such units,” he said.

“Two decades back, there were 30-40 cashew processing industries while now there are just 8-10 such units,” he said.

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