Will the cashew industry in India ever recover?

India’s cashew industry might have to increase domestic production to over 2 million tonnes by the year 2025, as the African countries from where India imports raw cashew nuts are aiming at more localised processing.

While India has a capacity to process 2.5 MT raw cashew, at present it produces only a third of that – 700,000-800,000 tonnes – and imports a similar amount from other countries. Now, with imports increasingly coming down, cashew processors are facing a supply shortage.

“Indian processing is heavily dependent on the import of raw cashew nuts from African countries. As African nations now encourage domestic processing of cashew nuts and envisage that 50 per cent of their raw cashew production will be processed domestically by 2025, India’s domestic production will need to be augmented to 2 million MT by 2025 for sustainability,” says the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI).

CEPCI has submitted a road map to the central government to achieve the target in three phases. This involves the immediate solution of adopting proper pre-harvest management of the crop through the application of proper manure and irrigation for increasing the domestic production by 15 per cent. An area expansion of 25 per cent over and above the existing plantation of 1 million hectares over the next three years has also been proposed. Replantation of old trees with high-yielding varieties, to be replaced at 20 per cent a year, is another way of increasing production in the country, according to CEPCI.

Based on the estimated yield under the plan, it is expected to achieve a target of 2.14 MT of raw cashew nut production in India, against the estimated demand of 2.19 MT by the year 2025, according to a Mission Plan submitted by CEPCI. This would require cultivation in traditional and non-traditional states, with the approval of Directorate of Cocoa and Cashew Development, support of the State Horticulture Department, and involvement of the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India.

I Nizamuddin, secretary of the Federation of Cashew Processors and Exporters, Kerala, said India’s capacity was much higher at around 2.5 MT, while the cultivation had been at around 600,000-700,000 tonnes per annum, leaving the rest of the market to be supplied through imports.

CEPCI data show that India accounts for about 25 per cent of the total world production of raw cashew nuts. During 2016-17, its production of raw cashew nut was estimated at 780,000 tonnes. Cashew cultivation is undertaken in 17 states of India covering an area of 1.04 million hectares. India is the largest cashew processor in the world, processing about 1.6 MT raw cashew nut per annum.