Palawan

In Coron, cashew nuts give families ‘hope’

John Sitchon

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In Coron, cashew nuts give families ‘hope’

CASHEW. Reynaldo and Marynol Barrientos prepare their merchandise for arriving tourists at their store along Sinamay Street, in front of Coron School of Fisheries in Coron, on June 8, 2024.

John Sitchon/Rappler

'Because of the business, I was able to have my house built and buy cars,' cashew store owner Reynaldo Barrientos tells Rappler

PALAWAN, Philippines – For Reynaldo and Marynol Barrientos, cashew nuts serve as a vital source of income for many families in the paradise town of Coron, a top tourist destination in Palawan.

In 2022, the couple opened Nhol Cashew de Coron, becoming part of the large community of vendors in Palawan who sell various products made from cashew nuts.

From cashew butter to sweetened cashew brittles, Reynaldo told Rappler that there was much “prosperity” to be had, especially with the influx of tourists who visit their stores.

“Because of the business, I was able to have my house built and buy cars,” the cashew vendor said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Before this, Reynaldo shared that they were barely getting by with their previous fashion boutique that was also affected by the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. 

It was only until they decided to start selling cashew nuts that they managed to get back on their feet, he said.

In 2023, researchers from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) encouraged the exploration of the cashew apples’ product potential.

According to their study, Palawan supplies at least 90% of the country’s entire cashew apple production. Based on 2022 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country produced 12,376 metric tons (MT) of cashew nuts.

The researchers explained that cashew farmers were only utilizing the nut of the cashew apple or only 10% of the fruit. By processing the fruit via new technologies, they said, farmers can maximize profits and create products like cashew wine and cashew jelly.

Harvesting cashew

Like the Barrientoses, many residents in Coron have looked to cashew nut retail for better economic opportunities. 

Anna Longcop, a 19-year-old cashew farmer, told Rappler that her earnings from cashew nut harvesting has helped her pay for her tuition and other important expenses at home. 

She currently works at the L. Escarda’s Coron Harvest in Barangay Tagumpay. The store is one of the oldest cashew retail outlets in Coron and has been around since 1970.

The farmer explained that they usually harvest during April. The best time to gather the fruits, she said, would be during the dry season because the rain would often prevent fruits from growing as they would drop from the tree before they get a chance to mature.

“Before it’s processed, the fruit is exposed under the sun. After it has dried for three to four days, it becomes okay. We first split the fruit, then, we carve it into shape and peel,” Longcop said in Filipino.

Cashew nut farmers splitting cashew apples open, females, nuts, table, sacks, food, persons
FARMERS. Cashew farmers Anna Longcop (right), 19, and Maria Fe Astor (left), 65, cut dried-up cashew apples open to harvest the nuts, on June 11, 2024. John Sitchon/Rappler

Longcop added that it would typically take up to three weeks to fill one sack of cashew apples – a sack weighs 60 kilograms.

However, while the cashew apple offers a stable source of income, farmers take on extra risks when harvesting and processing the fruit.

Longcop told Rappler that harvesters must wear gloves at all times as the fruit’s juices can be harmful to the skin due to its high acidity. The farmer also recalled multiple instances when fellow farmers lost a finger trying to cut the fruit open using a bladed tool.

The farmer hopes that the government will consider providing cashew farmers with training or financial assistance to aid them during harvests. – Rappler.com

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