MALKANGIRI : Cashew nuts grown in Malkangiri district will soon enter the retail market through Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) and Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM). A cashew processing unit has started production at Mundiguda under Khairput block to streamline the cashew sector in the district and provide employment to Bonda tribals living in the Bonda Hill.
Cashew nut cultivation in the district is primarily taken up by the primitive Bonda tribals in Mudulipada, Andrahal, Badbel, Banguda and Padiaguda areas under Muduliguda and Andrahal panchyats of Bonda Hill.Set up at a cost of `80 lakh, the processing unit became operational last week. Around `50 lakh was sanctioned under the Integrated Action Plan for civil construction and the rest amount was spent by the administration for procuring machineries, said ITDA project administrator RK Gond. At least 40 Bonda tribals, mostly women, have been engaged in the unit to crack, dry, peel, roast and pack the cashew nuts at a daily wage of `200 per day. Two trained ITI fitters, who are the natives of Mudulipada, have been employed to run the machineries.
After the processing unit became functional last week, the Bonda Development Agency procured 53 quintals of raw cashew nuts and Didayi Development Agency bought 83 quintals from farmers. A total of 136 quintals of cashew nuts were procured and sent to the unit for processing.
Sources said even as cashew farming is taken up on a large scale by tribals, they were forced to sell the produce to middlemen at just `80 to `100 per kg in the absence of market linkage. However, after the unit was opened, the tribal development agencies procured cashew nuts from the doorsteps of the farmers at `140 per kg.
Collector K Sudarshan Chakravarthy said the main objective of the project is to do away with the middlemen and give a better market link to the Bonda farmers.
The unit has been registered with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and all farmers selling cashew nuts to the unit would be registered under the Societies Act. While 5 to 10 per cent of the annual profit of the unit would be used for its maintenance, the rest amount will be shared among workers and farmers associated with the unit, he said.
The price of the processed cashew nuts will be fixed depending on its quality and structure. Processed nuts would be sold in retail market through ITDA and OLM.
The Collector added that efforts are on to sell Malkangiri grown cashew nuts online through Amazon and other similar websites.