With festival season on the horizon, cashew processors expect the domestic market to pick up momentum from late August after the first quarter of the year saw domestic demand sag through a spell of high prices in the export market.

International market has since cooled and now prices range between $3.10 and $3.40 per pound (454 grams), said Chairman of Cashew Export Promotion Council Harikrishnan Nair. However, prices have remained stable in the international market in the last fortnight and it appeared that the worst phase was over, he added.

Cashew exporters also expect good tidings in abundant supplies of West African raw cashew in the second-half of the year. Shipping delays have slowed down raw nuts arrivals from centres such as Ivory Coast.

Mr. Nair said bulk of the nearly eight lakh tonnes of raw cashew imported last year was sourced from West Africa.

Cashew kernel export earnings, helped by a fall in the value of rupee against the dollar, rose significantly last financial year to Rs.4,390 crore from Rs.2,819 crore in the previous year. The volume of kernel exports was 1.06 lakh tonnes and 1.32 lakh tonnes, respectively for 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Figures for the first quarter of the current financial year are still being compiled.

Industry sources said that there was slackened demand in the United States, European countries and in the Middle East, which were traditionally the largest markets for cashew kernel from India.

The U.S. imported Rs.1,470-crore worth of cashew kernels last year, the United Arab Emirates Rs.606 crore and the Netherlands Rs.365 crore worth of kernels.

Japan, which imported Rs.237 crore worth of cashew kernels last year, and Saudi Arabia, which imported (Rs.207 crore) worth of kernels, are the other major markets for Indian cashew.

Mr. Nair said the domestic market for cashew kernel was quite speculative and indications were that stocks to meet the festive demand were low in upcountry centres such as Delhi. This was indicated by the widening gap between prices at the sourcing centres in Kerala and at the sales points such as Delhi, he added.

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