The cashew processing industry in Andhra Pradesh may soon face a threat like in Kerala if the government fails to come to its rescue by offering subsidy on purchase of machinery for modernisation and other slew of incentives to increase crop production.
In Kerala, almost 95% of units have been forced to shut shop due to high labour costs and denial of permission for modernisation. A.P. is home to 600 to 650 processing units which employ nearly 70,000 to one lakh directly and indirectly. The State produces two to three lakh tonnes per annum.
“We are second in raw nut production after Maharashtra. We can increase the area under cultivation and quantity of processing if the government offers patronage to the highly labour-intensive industry,” AP Cashew Manufacturers’ Association president Phani Raghavulu told The Hindu on Wednesday.
Problem of ageing
The main problem in the State is the ageing of the crop – which is around 50 to 100 year-old — causing abysmally low yield. The average yield in AP is 0.5 tonnes per hectare as against 1.2 tonnes in Maharashtra.
“We are not able to purchase machinery and encourage farmers to take up cultivation in new areas for want of government support,” said Madhav Sure, finance and marketing head of Arle Cashew Pvt. Ltd. The firm has a processing unit near Visakhapatnam.
The manufacturers, fearing a fall in consumption, have also launched a campaign against to clear the misconception that eating cashew is not healthy. They say if raw cashew or broken cashew is consumed, it will help contain hypertension and diabetes. It is also said to be containing lot of medicinal properties for curing other ailments.
Mr. Raghuvulu said the authorities should realise that the industry has huge potential to grow. The annual growth since 2004 has remained at 14 to 15%. To overcome raw material shortage, the processing units import eight to 10 lakh tonnes cashew nuts from Indonesia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Senegal, Ivory Cost, and parts of West Africa. Of three-lakh tonne crunchy cashew produced in India, one lakh is exported to the United States, the Europe, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore and neighbouring countries.
In a recent representation, cashew manufacturers asked the government to remove 1 % cess proposed on cashew nuts by the Agriculture Market Committee and allot a site to open the office of the Cashew Export Promotion Council in Visakhapatnam.