Indians' growing fascination for cashews has raised the import of raw cashews to record levels. Indians now munch more cashews than any other country in the world.
Traders estimate the cashew consumption in the country to be around 3 lakh tonnes. The annual export of cashew kernels comes to about 1.3 lakh tonnes.
As the domestic output of about 7 lakh tonnes is hardly sufficient to meet the rising consumption, India has been importing more and more raw cashews from Africa forprocessing. In 2014-15, the raw cashew import went up by 21% to 9,30,458 tonnes. In the current fiscal, the imports have touched 927,016 tonnes in 11 months to February and are inching closer to 1 million tonnes.
The number of domestic processors has increased. And unlike in Kerala where increase in wages has made process costlier, the cost of production is cheaper in many states,'' said Anu S Pillai, partner of Anu Cashews. Higher import has been achieved in spite of costlier imported raw nuts. The raw nut prices which had been hovering around $1600 per tonne for several months. It has cooled a bit to $1400 per tonne, which is still dear compared with the prices last year.
The exporters have been peeved by the large scale import and stocking of raw cashew by the traders for selling in the domestic market as they felt the process led to artificial shortage of the nut . The raw cashew import which was free of duty, now attracts 9.36% duty, recently imposed by the government.