Mounting import of cashew kernels in the guise of cattle feed to circumvent the duty has hit the cashew industry buoyed up by the increasing local consumption in the wake of declining export. Cashew processors and exporters say the prices of cashew kernels have fallen by 20-30 per cent due to the rise in imports. “Most of such cashew kernels are coming from Africa and Vietnam to Vizag and Tughlakabad ports. They are much cheaper than local cashew kernels,” said Anu S Pillai, partner of Anu Cashews. Such kernels are coming as cattle feed which carry no import duty or as cashew husk having negligible duty compared with 30 per cent for cashew kernels, Pillai said. Besides getting sold in the domestic market, it is also getting re-exported.
Such illegal import may disrupt the efforts of the closed factories in Kerala to resume operations by securing fresh loans. “Of the 700 factories lying closed, around 175 are eligible for securing fresh loans to reopen. The banks are looking into the cases of 30 factories. Such import will push them into loss again when opened,” said Rajesh K, state convenor of the Kerala Cashew Industry Protection Council.
All these factories in Kollam district, the hub of cashew trade in the country, were forced to down their shutters due to the high raw nut price, rise in labour wages and import duty on raw cashew. Rajesh demanded 100 per cent import duty on cashew kernels and penalty for illegal import.Indian cashew export suffered from an escalation in the imported raw nut prices and a fall in the kernel prices in the global market this year. As per the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India data, the export has fallen by 25 per cent to 55,272 tonne for ten months ended January 31, 2019 from a year ago.
But the raw nut import has gone up by 25 per cent to 7,84,506 tonnes for the ten month period with a dip in the prices in the last few months and increasing demand from the local market.