This season has not been favourable for cashew farmers in Bandarban as although the trees had plenty of buds, most of them did not mature into nuts for lack of rain and low price has been more frustrating.
In the Soyanlo Para of the district under Rowanchari Upazila, most of the families are cashew nut farmers and most of these farmers are stocking this year's yield after drying the nuts as the price is not good this year.
Raolom Bawm, who is a resident of the Para, has around 200 cashew trees on five acres of land but due to the lack of rain, he did not get a good yield this year despite having good cashew buds.
"I got around three maunds of nuts this year compared to five maunds from last year. Farmers are not getting more than Tk2000 for each maund," Bawm added.
Parkhub Bawm and Daniel Bawm from the same village are also frustrated about this year's yield. Each of them has around 200 – 300 trees but the yield has not been satisfactory and they are not getting good prices for the nuts either.
Both of them have decided not to sell the nuts this year and are keeping them stocked for next year.
About the low pricing of the nuts, Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension of the district Dr AKM Nazmul Haque said, "The price of cashew nut depends on the quality and demand of the nut. There was very inadequate rain this year when the buds appeared so a lot of the buds fell off the trees immaturely. I believe the buds who got to mature into nuts are not of satisfactory quality either."
"If the quality and the size of the nut is big then farmers get a decent price for them. For healthy buds and nuts, fertilizer and insecticide also need to be used regularly," Haque added.
Two other farmers from the same neighbourhood Saplai Karbari and Vanni Yak Bawm said that even three to four years ago, per maund of nuts was used to be sold at Tk3000 – 4000. But last year, the prices suddenly fell.
Two local nut traders Aongshwe Sing Marma and Ching Mong Marma from Rowanchari who supply cashew nuts to different warehouses in Chattogram said that they have collected around 150 maunds of nuts this year from the farmers in Rowanchari.
Commenting on the farmers' dissatisfaction about the prices, they said, "We paid Tk2000 – 2500 for per maund of nuts depending on the nuts' quality. The prices of nuts started reducing last year due to the pandemic and it reduced further this year as the quality of the nuts are not very good."
Cashew nut farmers in the district's Thanchi area are struggling with low prices as well.
Nithowai Aong Marma and Baching Marma, residents of Chhandak in Thanchi Upazila, told The Business Standard that they each have about 2,000 cashew nut trees and they got some 20 maunds of nuts this year but they are selling the nuts for Tk1700 per maund.
"Last year, as the weather was favourable, the nuts were big so the price was relatively better than this year's. We sold nuts for Tk3200 – 3700 per maund," the farmers reminisced.
Swapan Kumar Biswas, a local businessman, said that he collected cashew nuts from the Thanchi area for Tk1800 per maund this year.
"I have around 100 maunds of nuts this year but the quality of the nuts is not very good," he added.
Despite the unsatisfactory yield this year and the low prices, Deputy Director Nazmul Haque of DAE is hopeful about the future.
He said, "The government is starting a project worth Tk211 crore centring cashew nuts this year. Under this project, the government will distribute free cashew saplings and fertilizers among the farmers. Farmers will also receive training and there will also be exhibitions of the nuts."
Haque hopes that this project would benefit the farmers a lot and increase the nut production in the district.