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Rising cashew kernel imports hit processors

Staff Reporter
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Broken and splits grade cashew lying at aprocessing factory in Kollam.— PHOTO:C. SURESH KUMAR
Broken and splits grade cashew lying at aprocessing factory in Kollam.— PHOTO:C. SURESH KUMAR

In spite of being a major producer and exporter of cashew kernels, India is now finding itself being listed as an importer too. According to “Global Statistical Review 2007-12” released recently by the Spain-based International Nut and Dried Fruits Council (INC), cashew kernel imports into India, of late, are much above some of the traditional kernel importing countries.

Statistics show that annual cashew kernel imports into India since 2007 are higher than that into Belgium, Italy, Thailand, Israel, Singapore, Luxembourg, Spain and Japan. In 2011, India imported 4,065 metric tonnes of cashew kernels. It was more than 13,000 metric tonnes in 2008.

Cashew processors here, who have been hit by the imports, say that since a good portion of the imports enter the country on the sly, mainly as consignments of cattle feed and poultry feed to avoid import duty, actual imports will be much higher. Major portion of the imports (largely broken and splits grade) is from Vietnam, although Brazil also accounts for a share.

India is the only market for broken and splits grade. Because of the under-invoicing, traders find this grade cheap to buy and highly profitable when sold. This makes India the only cashew processing country on the INC list of kernel importing countries. The development has resulted in huge quantities of such kernels produced by processors in India lying unsold.

As per INC statistics, world raw cashew production last year was 5.43 lakh tonnes of kernels. While raw cashew production in India during 2012 was 1.60 lakh tonnes, Vietnam produced only 63,050 metric tonnes.

But the irony is that Vietnam has overtaken India as the top cashew kernel exporting country and has maintained that position for the last five years. Both countries meet their export demands through import of raw cashew. And for that matter, Vietnam, till a few years ago, had no processing units. India used to be a major purchaser of raw cashew produced there. But now Vietnam has banned export of raw cashew.

The average kernel export by Vietnam during the past five years was 1.60 lakh tonnes, accounting for 39 per cent of total market share. The average for India stands at 1.23 lakh tonnes, accounting for 30 per cent of the market share. Brazil has a 10 per cent market share with an average export of 40,639 metric tonnes.

Meanwhile, quoting statistics, Pratap Nair, INC ambassador for India, told The Hindu that world production of tree nuts in 2012 touched 3.5 million metric tonnes, a 5.5 per cent increase over the previous year; dried fruit touched 9.5 million metric tonnes (up13 per cent) and peanuts reached 36.5 million tonnes, up 2 per cent over the previous year.

He said that while statistics for 2012 were awaited, global trade of tree nuts dipped by 4 per cent in 2011, indicating rise in domestic consumption in the respective countries producing such nuts. INC statistics show that global trading of dried fruits in 2011 had no significant variation over 2010. World consumption of tree nuts in 2011 for the first time crossed 3 million metric tonnes. INC figures show that world consumption of dried fruits increased by 5 per cent in 2011.

The value of tree nuts touched $25.657 billion in 2012, up 19 per cent as compared to 2011 while that of dried fruits $6.663 billion, down 4 per cent, Mr. Nair said.

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