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  • Ray of hope for ailing cashew sector in Kollam

    Jan 31st, 2019

    An allocation of 77 crore and an assurance to procure 1 lakh tonnes of cashew kernels to keep the industry afloat — Kerala Budget 2019 has sparked a ray of hope for the ailing cashew sector with proposals to expeditiously solve its crisis.

    The private sector gets a major boost in the form of interest subsidy, which can be a real game-changer if implemented properly. “For the first time in history, there is a proposal to provide interest-free loans to private processors. The government will take care of the interest for an entire year after restructuring their loans. Currently, many of them are paying very high interest rates and this will be a huge relief to them,” said Minister for Cashew Industry J. Mercykutty Amma.

    While 25 crore has been earmarked for this revival package, Cashew Board gets 30 crore along with a government guarantee for a loan of 250 crore from cooperative banks. The Cashew Board will be in charge of importing one lakh tonnes of raw cashew nut to meet the domestic demand. “The raw materials will be procured from various cashew-producing countries and it will be made available to private processors as well through escrow account. The shortage of raw cashew nuts (RCN) is one major issue the industry is facing and we are trying to procure sufficient volume for the sector to survive,” the Minister said.

    ‘Outlay insufficient’

    Compared to previous years, there is a dip in the quota for public sector and Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) chairman S. Jayamohan says the allocation of 19 crore for KSCDC and Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Cooperative Society (Capex) is quite insufficient. “Though the budget has proposals beneficial to the industry as a whole, this time the thrust is on the private sector. The fund allotted is inadequate to meet the expenses of modernising KSCDC and Capex factories and branding new products,” he says. The budget has also set aside 8 crore, including Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana fund, for promoting domestic cashew farming.

    Meanwhile, private processors in Kollam, who have been on the warpath for a while, feel the budget holds no promises. “The revival package of 25 crore is nothing but an eyewash. There was an allocation of 20 crore for private sector last year too. And if the banks are against restructuring loans, none of us can get the interest subsidy,” says Rajesh K., processor and convener of Kerala Cashew Industry Joint Protest Council.