Home   >   NEWS & VIEWS   >   News

  • ‘Buying groceries on credit for three months’: Covid-19 wreaked havoc on cashew workers 07/06/2020

    Jul 6th, 2020

    “I can’t even pay my cashew unit’s power bill as the factory has been shut for three months,” complains Maddi Tirumala Rao from Mandasa. “All labourers and staff of the factory left due to the pandemic. I bought raw cashew for Rs 8,500 per bag, and the price has now fallen to Rs 6,000. I only run a small unit, but with neither production nor sales during the lockdown, I suffered a loss of Rs 3 lakh,” he adds. Tirumala Rao recently started a small restaurant to sustain his family, but soon had to shut it as the town was declared a containment zone. “With the moratorium announced for bank loans, I did not pay EMIs in the past few months,” he points out. Many people in the region face problems similar to Tirumala Rao’s. There are more than 300 cashew units in Palasa, Mandasa and Sompeta mandals, and more than 25,000 workers in the region have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis. According to Ambati Krishna Murthy, secretary of the Cashew Units and Rice Mills Workers’ Association, cashew factories are the only source of livelihood for 18,000 labourers in Palasa town. “We only got paid for 12 days of work in the cashew units between March 22 and July 5. Male workers in cashew factories earn up to Rs 500 and females Rs 300 daily,” he adds. “With no work, I need to take loans to sustain my family. I have been buying groceries on credit from the nearby store for the past three months. As I got work for 12 days, I gave the grocer the entire wage,” Krishna Murthy says. The secretary of the association added that about 2,000 labourers from surrounding villages have been working in cashew units in Palasa. “Since it is a municipality, labourers are not eligible for NREGS work,” he points out. S Srinivasa Rao, treasurer of the Palasa Cashew Merchants’ Association, says there are about 300 cashew units in Palasa. “As the lockdown was announced all of a sudden, we could not transport the processed cashew nut to businessmen in other districts and states. I suffered a loss of Rs 5 lakh during the lockdown. Similarly, with the voluntary lockdown in Palasa, we could not open factories,” he says, adding that each unit suffered a loss of Rs 5-6 lakh during the lockdown. MORE THAN 25,000 WORKERS LOST JOBS Palasa, Mandasa and Sompeta mandals have more than 300 cashew units, and since the lockdown was enforced, over 25,000 workers in the region lost their jobs. Cashew factories are the only source of income for 18,000 workers in Palasa, according to Ambati Krishna Murthy, secretary, Cashew Units and Rice Mills Workers’ Association