- 84 per cent of cashew processing units in Kerala have closed in 2 years
- These units employed 3 lakh people, mostly women, now left without jobs
- Most of these processing units are located in Kollam district
Cashew processing units in Kerala once employed around three lakh people - mostly women - who now have been left without jobs, claim industry insiders. Almost 700 out of 834 cashew processing units - around 84 per cent in Kerala - have shut down in the last two years. Most of these processing units are located in Kollam district - earlier world famous for export of cashew kernels.
Usha Kumari, in her 50s, with her husband bed ridden, speaks to us as her tears trickle down, unstoppable. "It's even difficult to think about rice soup on some nights. I have no support, except this job here. Have tried in other places, but there are no jobs nearby," Usha Kumari says.
He is not an exception.
"The price of kernels has increased two fold. But the raw nut price has increased five times and are hardly available for procurement. This industry is destroyed," explains Susheelan Pillai, who has a liability of crores pending.
The reasons for the downfall are stark. The cost of raw cashew has steeped globally and in Kerala, lack of mechanisation has added to the woes - a victory for Vietnam which has emerged as a cheaper global alternative.
After Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's interventions, a temporary moratorium exists on any bank action till May 31. But, with each passing day, fear seems to be rising.
"We have seen the Chief Minister of Kerala, we have met the cashew minister, all the concerned officials in the secretariat. We have given petitions to central commerce minister and Minister of State. But so far nothing has been done," Mr Sashidharan says, demanding a recovery package.
"We can help the existing players to revive their businesses only if banks cooperate with us. For fresh loans, government is in a position to facilitate loans at a lesser interest. A cashew board has been put into place," J Mercykutty Amma, Minister for Fisheries, Harbour Engineering and Cashew Industry, told NDTV.