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Cashew growing in Indonesia was originally meant for afforestation programs, particularly in those areas that were infertile and experienced dry climatic conditions. Within the last two decades however, expansion in area under cashew was carried out for the economic value of cashew nut kernels rather than for afforestation purposes. There is a steady increase of cashew growing areas annually, especially in the Eastern part of the country where the climatic conditions are favorable for its production. From an area of 58,000 ha which produced 9000 tons in 1975, it increased to 466,000 ha with a total production of 78,000 tons in 1996. Unfortunately, the increase in area did not show an appreciable rise in production due to low productivity of plantations. This was partly due to the use of unselected germplasm and traditional management practices. As a result, mean yield/ha ranged from 150-250 kg/ha/year.

The volume of cashew exported has been increasing in recent years. In 1978, the country exported 39,000 tons which increased to 55,000 tons by 1994. The volume of exports decreased to 27,000 tons in 1996, partly due to a steady increase in domestic consumption. Cashew is mainly exported to India and the USA, and recently, Japan too has become an importer of Indonesian cashew. More than 90 percent of cashew production is in the hands of small farmers.


Cashew production in Indonesia is mainly confined to the Eastern parts of the country. These areas are characterized by sparse rainfall and a long dry season, which is considered ideal for high productivity of cashew. In order to minimize losses during orchard establishment, timing of the planting to synchronize with the short rains becomes critical. If planting losses occur however, re-planting is carried out the following year.

There are indications that the cashew growing areas are steadily increasing. For example, in 1978 the area under cashew was about 82, 511 ha with a total production of 8,800 tons. This increased to 253,777 ha with a production of 23,305 tons by 1988. In 1996, the area increased further to nearly 466,000 ha. The main growing regions are the provinces of South East Sulawesi (46 %), South Sulawesi (23 %), East Java (10%), West and East Nusatenggara (4 %), Bali (3 %) and other minor areas (14 %). Production statistics are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Cashew Production Trends in Indonesia (1978-96)


Extent (Ha)

Production (tons)


82 511

8 800


193 583

18 047


253 777

23 305


400 593

69 751


465 758

77 663

Source: Nogoseno (1997)
The increase in production area has not shown a significant improvement of crop yields. This is mainly due to the use of unselected planting material and poor management practices followed by growers.


The low productivity of Indonesian cashew orchards is a result of the indiscriminate use of unselected and inferior germplasm by growers. No serious selection work has been carried out so far to develop superior clones and farmers have been compelled to use their own planting material. This has now been realized as a major drawback to the development of the cashew industry. Some attempts have been made to improve the situation which have met with little success. Although the Ministry of Agriculture Directorate of Extension has recommended several selections from high yielding mother trees identified as seed sources in the main production areas, these improvements in the germplasm status are yet to be realized in any substantial way.

In addition to the above selections identified as bulk populations, some collections of superior germplasm are also available at the Research Institute for Spices and Medicinal Crops which has been mandated for the improvement of cashew. Seeds of these selections are also available for distribution. The potential productivity of the above bulk populations varies from 900-2,200 kg/ha/year (Sri Kurniati and Hadad, 1996). As the number of trees for each selection is limited, an immediate impact on production cannot be achieved in the short term, although a long term multiplication program can be achieved for future recommendations.

There has been little success in the use of clonal material for artificial propagation of cashew. The majority of plantations are therefore being established from seedling progenies. In the future, vegetatively propagated planting material will be used for new areas, once the techniques are developed. Since grafting of clonal selections can be carried out relatively easily, a program will be launched to improve the skills of cashew growers in vegetatively propagated planting material production.


As mentioned earlier, cashew cultivation is mainly confined to the eastern parts of the country which have a relatively dry climate. Plantations are established on flat terrain as well as in hilly areas. Since land clearing on hilly slopes is very costly, cashew trees are established with minimum land development. When inter-crops have to be grown in the rainy season, farmers clean their lands, but weeds are allowed to grow in the dry season after the annual crops have been harvested. Potential fire hazards in the dry season discourages weeding and collection of dry vegetation in summer. Torrential rain in the monsoon season also tends to erode hill slopes when the vegetal cover is removed. Since large-scale conservation on hill slopes is considered too expensive, most farmers resort to mini-conservation measures for individual cashew trees.

Land clearing operations and digging pits are carried out 1-2 months before planting. Tree spacing used by farmers varies from 6m x 6m to 10m x 10m or more. For afforestation programs, the spacing used was generally 4m x 4m with the intention of thinning out later in order to ensure a good ground cover. Due to its widely spreading growth habit, cashew trees perform badly and are less productive at high plant densities. With high competition for water and overcrowding, these plantations become uneconomical. The current practice adopted by farmers, therefore, is to increase the spacing in order to utilize crop avenues for cultivation of inter-crops such as upland rice, maize, cassava etc. Cashew planting is usually carried out in November-December when monsoonal conditions bring regular rains.


In general, cashew receives very little attention as a crop. It is considered more as a forest tree rather than an agricultural crop, since cashew does not seem to require much attention compared to other crops. Therefore, growers incur minimal production costs for maintenance of cashew orchards. In most instances, cashew is a companion crop to various annual inter-crops and economically, is of secondary importance to farmers.

Since cashew is usually grown on marginal lands where farmers face long dry periods without any access to irrigation, it is not only the area of land and resources that is limiting but also the high labor inputs required to grow many annual crops during the short rainy season. Since the family labor is relatively and frequently unemployed, some income from crops like cashew helps to supplement family income and cashew planting and harvesting is often carried out by family labor.

After a few years of weeding and care of the young cashew plants, the trees develop large canopies and the farmers move to other vacant plots to grow annual crops. As cashew trees grow in size, there is less weed competition, care and management problems will diminish except for clean weeding under the canopies to facilitate harvesting. The only orchard operation in the dry season is harvesting and an occasional weeding at the end of the dry season, before the advent of the rainy season. In some instances, mulching and cover cropping are practiced, although these agronomic applications are seldom seen in most cashew orchards. Farmers are often scared of fire hazards when dry plant residue is heaped in cashew plantations in the summer months. Some general fertilizer recommendations for those farmers who wish to apply for their cashew crop are available (Table 2).

Table 2. General Recommendations for Fertilizer Application in Cashew (gm/tree/year)

Age (crop year)

Nitrogen (N)

Phosphorus (P2O5)

Potash (K2O)





























Source: Abdullah (1994)

Note: The fertilizer is to be applied in two split doses, at the beginning and the end of the rainy season.

As subsistence farming is the dominant land use system in dry and marginal lands where cashew is grown, farmers give much higher priority to their annual food crops such as maize, upland rice, cassava etc. The ability to inter-crop is an important economic factor in determining planting distances for the permanent cashew crop, especially in the eastern part of the country where a limited choice of annual crops are available to farmers. Furthermore, use of fertilizer for annual inter-crops is indirectly beneficial to the main cashew plantations.


As previously mentioned, cashew was used mainly in afforestation programs in the early 1970s. Consequently, the narrow spacing used resulted in severe overcrowding and low productivity as trees advanced in age. Improving yields by thinning plantations failed to attract farmers as it was considered too expensive and labor intensive. This operation was therefore, more of an academic practice followed in research institutions rather than in farmers’ fields.

Low yields in cashew have also been attributed to pest and disease incidence. Common pests attacking cashew are Cricula, Helopeltis, and diseases such as Fusarium and Pseudomonas (Tombe et al, 1996; Supriadi, 1996; Wikardi et al, 1886). Losses from pests and diseases have been considered to be substantial although there are no accurate statistics available.


Time of harvesting varies from region to region, but is usually carried out in the dry season from July to November. In South East Sulawesi, harvesting months are from July to September, whereas orchardists in West and East Nusatenggara harvest their cashew crops from September to November. These differences are mainly due to micro-climatic variations between regions.

The main source of income for growers is the cashew kernel. Other products such as the cashew apple and CNSL are of little importance. In some areas, the cashew apple may be marketed, used for manure or given as livestock feed. The economic value of CNSL is exploited only by a few processing industries that have been established in the country. Statistics on the utilization or marketing of CNSL or the percentage of shelling of nuts by farmers and processors are not available. The main difficulty in shelling of nuts is the high variability in size and resultant quality. Prices of nuts also vary according to different grades of whole and broken kernels.


Growers market their produce through local traders and middlemen who collect and supply exporters and processors. Current prices are about US $ 0.5 per kg of raw nuts and US$ 3-4 for kernels. Prices at farm-level are remunerative and tend to increase every year (Figure 1). Development programs on cashew growing in the Eastern part of the country therefore, meets ready acceptance by farmers.

Figure 1. Domestic Price of Cashew Nut from 1990 to 1996 (in Indonesian Currency - 1 US$ = Rp 2,400).


By 1996, the total extent of cashew production was estimated at 466,000 ha which gave a yield of 78,000 tons of kernel. The world production of cashew was reported in 1995 to be in the range of 540,000 tons (Markamin, 1997). Based on these figures Indonesia has contributed to about 14 percent of world production. The role that Indonesia can play in the supply of cashew to world markets will increase in the future. Production statistics show a steady increase in cashew growing extents each year. In recent years the cashew program has been assisted by foreign donor funding from ADB and UNDP.

Land use surveys have shown that more than 15 million ha spread out over 9 provinces in the country are suitable for the expansion of the cashew industry (Abdullah and Las, 1995). There does not seem to be any limitations on land availability as seen from the above survey. World cashew prices are also very favorable for the development of the crop in Indonesia.


There are however, several constraints that the cashew industry may have to face in the future. There is bound to be increased competition in the international market between the main producer countries and as a result, the prices of cashew may go down. Among other problems facing the local cashew industry are those of a technical nature. Lack of high quality planting material/varieties, variable quality in home-level and small-scale processing enterprises, pest and disease constraints, drought effects, fire hazards and economic instability would be some of the factors that could adversely affect the cashew industry.

Of the 18 processing companies established in the 1980’s, only 8 are functioning today. Low production and consequently, the lack of raw material supply are the major causes for their decline. There is strong competition between raw cashew nut exporters and processors. In this situation, farm-gate prices are good, but probably not conducive for development of the processing industry. Some government intervention in developing a price control policy to benefit the producer and the processor is therefore essential in the interests of the industry.


Abdullah, A. 1994. Technological packages for cashew development. Upland Farmer Development Project, Directorate - General Estate, Ministry of Agriculture.

Abdullah, A. and I. Las 1995. Peta kesesuaian iklim dan lahan untuk pengem bangan tanaman jambu mente di Indonesia. Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian, Department Pertanian.

Markamin, S. 1996. Perbenihan Jambu Mente. Prosiding Forum Komunikasi Ilmiah Komoditas Jambu Mente. Balai Penelitian Tanaman Rempah dan Obat. 46-54 hal.

Markamin, S. 1997. Forum Konsultasi Ilmiah Perbenihan tanaman Rempah dan Obat. Tantangan dan peluang pengembangan industri perbenihan jambu mente. Balai Penelitian Tanaman rempah dan Obat.

Nogoseno. 1997. Program Pengembangan Jambu Mente di Indonesia. Pertemuan Teknis dan Kemitraan Jambu Mente. Directorat Jenderal Perkebunan (Documen 1).

Sri Kurniati dan Hadad, E.A. 1996. Perkembangan Penelitian Bahan Tanaman Jambu Mente. Prosiding Forum Komunikasi Ilmiah Komoditas Jambu Mente. Balai Penelitian Rempah dan Obat. 104 - 114 hal.

Supriadi dan D. Sitepu. 1996. Penyakit Utama Jambu Mente dan Strategi Penanggulang-annyya. Prosiding Forum Komunikasi Ilmiah Komoditas Jambu Mente. Balai Penelitian Tanaman Rempeh dan Obat. 115 - 123 hal.

Tombe, M., et al 1996. Penelitian jamur Fusarium beresal dari tanaman jambu mente dengan gejala busuk akar. Prosiding Forum Komunikasi Ilmiah Komoditas Jambu Mente. Balai Penelitian Tanaman Rempah dan Obat. 210 - 217 hal.

Wikardi, E.A., Wiratno, and Siswanto. 1996. Beberapa hama utama tanaman jambu mente dan usaha pengendaliannya. Prosiding Forum Komunikasi Ilmiah Komoditas Jambu Mente. Balai Penelitian Tanaman Rempah dan Obat, 124-132 hal.

[5] Research Officer, Institute for Spices and Medicinal Crops, Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, Indonesia

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