The Cashew Manufacturers and Exporters Association, at a meeting held here on Monday, has decided to boycott the Kochi Port, and instead promote the Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu for importing raw cashew nuts and exporting processed cashew kernels.

The association had already given directions to three container ships carrying 18,000 metric tonnes of raw cashew from the Mtwara Port in Tanzania destined for the Kochi Port to skip the latter port and call at the Tuticorin port.

The ships — Kota Hormat, Kota Hungal and Kota Akbar — have already steered clear of the Kochi Port, and are heading for the Tuticorin Port.

A spokesman for the association told The Hindu that the decision had been taken in the wake of the growing trade union problem at the Kochi Port. Since the past ten days, there has been no container movement from the Kochi Port because of a strike declared by drivers and cleaners of container trucks.

The divers and cleaners demand an increase in the batta (extra allowance) following the hike in freight charges effected by container truck owners due to an increase in fuel prices.

The association feels the demands of the union are unjustified.

The Labour Minister, Shibu Baby John, and the Ports Minister, K. Babu, held talks with the representatives of trade unions at Thiuvananthapuram on Monday to sort out the problem but the union leaders were adamant and walked out of the meeting.

This has led to non-movement of about 50,000 metric tonnes of raw cashew nuts, meant for the processing industry here, and a huge quantity of processed kernels for export.

As per existing rates, the batta for a container reaching Kollam from Kochi and back is Rs.3,000 for the driver alone. This is exclusive of the salary. The demand now is to hike that batta to more than Rs.5,000. At the same time, the batta for Tuticorin-based container truck drivers and cleaners together for a trip to Kollam and back is just Rs.1.800. Hence, the decision to promote the Tuticorin Port where attractive incentives are offered to exporters and importers, says the association.