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  • Cashew trade: State to weed out middlemen

    Jun 28th, 2017

    The State government is seeking to eliminate middlemen in cashew trade by collaborating with supplier countries in Africa and facilitate direct procurement of raw nuts for the processing units in the State, Minister for Cashew and Fisheries J. Mercykutty Amma has said. The Minister was addressing a two-day conclave on ‘Cashew trade for common good,’ organised by the State government in association with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and also involving diplomats from the African countries, here on Wednesday.

    Direct procurement

    He requested the MEA to direct Indian Ambassadors to facilitate direct procurement of cashew nuts, negotiation of prices, and help for an agency identified by the State government to inspect and lift the stock. Among the African nations being represented are key suppliers such as Madagascar, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Gambia, Togo, and Mali. The envoys may be requested to sign or prepare memorandums of understanding in consultation with their governments for long-term procurement from cooperatives or government institutions, subject to price agreements, she said.

    The diplomatic conclave would benefit the almost 3 lakh women workers dependent on cashew processing and cashew farmers in the African countries. It also aims to do away with the middlemen who manipulate raw nut prices to their advantage, she said.

    Minimum wages

    Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, in his presidential address, said the State could not enforce minimum wages in the sector owing to the fears of reprisal from processing industries. If they chose to migrate to other States, it would make a bad situation more ugly. No big capital is being invested in what is largely a footloose industry. The livelihood of labourers, mostly women, is at stake. The sector is already besieged by rampant underemployment, he said.

    The State government would like to discourage middlemen. The State and supplier nations could look at ways of direct procurement of raw nuts by a designated Kerala government agency. “We want to eliminate corruption in all forms in the business. Transparent procedures have to be adopted to ensure the same,” he said.

    Tech competency

    Secondly, cashew farmers could benefit from the technological competencies available in research centres and universities in Kerala with respect to innovative farming. Technological collaboration would be of help to popularise hybrid varieties of cashew in the supplier nations, besides improving their stock and productivity. The most important area of collaboration is in the cashew products value chain. “We could think of a Africa-Kerala or Africa-Kollam brand of cashew nuts that the Kerala government would promote,” he said.