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  • Cashew industry struggling to stay afloat 10/12/2020

    Oct 12th, 2020

    Usually it is the season when sales skyrocket due to the demand of Navratri and Diwali markets. But with both consumption and supply taking a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of cashew industry hangs in the balance. More than 400 processing units in the State have downed shutters since lockdown, rendering thousands of skilled labourers jobless and their employers under tremendous pressure. While there has been a progressive slowdown in consumption, small and mid-level entrepreneur are finding it increasingly difficult to tide over the revenue dip. “Both international and domestic markets are down. Export volume has hit an all-time low and domestic sales have plummeted due to the absence of tourists, pilgrims, large-scale festivals and events. Nearly 80% of the factories are not operating and most of the processors have hit rock bottom. The price of most moving items such as splits and grade 320 has also come down,” said Nizamudeen I., president, Federation of Cashew Processors and Exporters. While the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) had a record sale of ₹5.5 crore during last Onam, this year they could not reach anywhere near the figure. “Since COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in the coming days, it is not possible for the market to recover any time soon. If we are not able to sell, there will be product pile up and the labourers will get fewer working days,” said KSCDC chairman S. Jayamohan. The corporation had procured 2,000 tonnes of best quality RCN from the local farms in Kannur and Kasaragod at a higher price during the lockdown to operate the factories during Onam. The KSCDC is expecting 2,500 MT of RCN from Guinea-Bissau by October 25 so that the government-run factories can continue processing. “The KSCDC and Capex will continue processing in order to protect the labourers. The situation is very complex and we will incur a loss, but we cannot deny the labourers their livelihood and other benefits,” he said. The procurement of cashew apple was also hit due to the pandemic and resultant protocol, affecting the production of value-added products. According to private processors, they are in dire straits with most of them facing revenue recovery procedures due to the default in interest payments. With COVID-19 aggravating the crisis in the sector one more processor had ended his life recently. “In the last couple of years, a total of five processors have committed suicide due to the crisis. Though a revival package was announced, it was sabotaged by the banks. They close the door at us, and both the Centre and State governments have failed to notice our plight,” said Shikar A.M., processor and secretary of Cashew Industry Protection Council.