Revive cashew processing to check tribal exploitation

Vizianagaram: Seven cashew nut processing units set up in the Agency area of the district each at a cost of Rs 10 lakh have been on the verge of closure on account of the official apathy.
The units have been set up at GK Padu, Iridi, Duribili, Velagavalasa, Kurukoote, Asanabhadra and Alagaruvu with the objective of the women’s self-help groups procure cashew nuts from farmers, process them in the processing units and sell them to the Girijan Cooperative Corporation.
According to KP Das, farmers’ cooperative society president, of Salur, the units have been shelved on account of lack of coordination between various government departments.
For three months, the units ran very well. Because of the discrepancy on who should foot the electricity bill the unit has been closed down for sometimes. Later, the electricity department disconnected power to the units.
On account of money borrowed from middlemen, the farmers have no alternative to except sell cashew nuts to them. While the GCC price for a kg of cashew nuts is Rs 131, the traders have been offering Rs 150 a kg, but resorting to cheating the people in weighing the nuts.
The tribal farmers have been appealing to the state government for loans to rule out exploitation by the middlemen. They are seeking disbursement of minimum expenses to the tribal farmers which they promise to repay in installments.
A quintal of cashew nuts sells at Rs 13000. But on account of borrowing from middlemen, they have no alternative except to make a distress sale at the price quoted by the middlemen. Government’s incentives are necessary to check exploitation by the middlemen.
SHG women who are trained in processing cashew nut processing – Ganga and Gangamma of Velagavalasa– say that they are confined to their homes as the cashew units are not running.
Farmers in the Agency area and organisations like GCC and ITDA would thrive only when the activities of middlemen are checkmated. The officials say that the SHG women are not able to run the cashew processing units.
They agreed that there is confusion with regard to payment of electricity bills of the units and procurement of cashew nuts from the farmers.
Parvatipuram ITDA project officer Lakshmi Shah made it clear that the ITDA planned to give the running of the units to a private company Olam to rule out cheating of the farmers by middlemen and to provide employment to women. The district administrative machinery is required to swing into action.
Otherwise, the machinery in the units would remain idle, the activities of middlemen will slip out of hand and the utility of the GCC will come under a scanner and revive the cashew processing units.