Govt must take steps to bring new areas under cashew farming

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Published: December 13, 2014 12:06:19 AM

The International Nut & Dried Fruit Council (INC) is a non-profit organization, formed in 1983 in Paris...

The International Nut & Dried Fruit Council (INC) is a non-profit organization, formed in 1983 in Paris, whose mission is to be the international source for information on nuts and dried fruits for health, nutrition, food safety, government standards, regulations and trade quality standards. Spain-headquartered INC represents almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Pratap Nair of Vijayalaxmi Cashew Company, one of India’s largest exporters of cashew, is the ambassador of INC for India. In an interview with FE’s Rajesh Ravi, Nair talks about the health benefits of cashew nuts and its global trade. Excerpts:

How is India placed in the global cashew market in production and share of exports?

India is the largest producer of cashew kernels and second largest exporter of kernels in the world. The global share of Indian exports is 26%, second to Vietnam. This is primarily due to our large domestic consumption.

There have been reports of a new wage settlement in Kerala for cashew workers and its impact and competitiveness of India relative to other countries.

What is your outlook on India’s market share and processing cost?

Wages in Kerala have been hiked by 35%. This will have a severe impact on competitiveness relative to competing countries such as Vietnam. Vietnam’s processing costs were lower to India’s even before this wage hike which comes into effect by January.

Several research reports on benefits of cashew consumption have been circulating in the media? Do you think the reports are authentic?

The health benefits of nut consumption are genuine. It is important to inform the public about the latest data. The information on benefits disseminated by INC is based on solid research by world renowned scientists. Coinciding with world diabetes day, the third World Congress of Public Health Nutrition took place in Spain with participation by top scientists in the nutrition sector. It was disclosed that the incidence rate of Type-2 diabetes can be cut by 52% with regular consumption of all nuts, and that they protect the cardiovascular system. Nuts such as cashews contain Vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, arginine, plant sterols and photochemical compounds — vital nutrients.

What about cashew nut price? Is it competitive enough when compared to other nuts?

Price of cashews is competitive relative to other competing nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazels etc. Cashews are reasonably priced now, and prices have been stable for several years, creating a conducive climate for supermarkets to run promotions on cashews.

Have new markets come into the trade? Has the health benefit of the nut helped in sustaining demand in traditional markets of US and Europe?

New markets such as South Korea, South America, Turkey, Scandinavian countries etc, are steadily increasing consumption of cashews, and awareness is increasing.

The news of health benefits of cashew is beginning to reach the public in US, Europe and India. INC has formed a global cashew council which is starting a research programme to study the benefits exclusively of cashews. The Cashew Export Promotion Council of India has also begun a study on its nutritional benefits and benefits in controlling diabetes. These initiatives will help in sustaining demand in traditional markets, initiate new demand from non-traditional markets and also help in growth of consumption.

Is supply of raw cashew keeping pace with demand?

Global supply and demand of raw cashew is more or less in equilibrium, which reflects in steady prices for kernels.

Is Indian supply keeping pace with demand? What about the initiative to bring new area into farming?

Processing capacity in India is growing, but unfortunately domestic output of raw seed is not keeping up with demand. We still depend on imported seed. We cover 60% of our requirement from Africa to keep factories running. With African countries wanting to process the seed in Africa itself, it is imperative that the government take steps to bring new areas into cashew farming as well as raise yield in existing farms by introducing scientific techniques and educating farmers.

What constraints are faced by the processing industry?

Key constraints facing the industry are shortage of domestic material, dependence on imports, increasing cost of processing and difficulty in attracting labour to cashew factories. Vietnam processing costs are lower and workers more productive. We will have to focus on mechanization and the government must take steps to support this drive with subsidies.

How is domestic consumption growing? Will it be a preferred market?

The domestic industry is growing at a steady pace, and will definitely be a preferred market in the future.

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