Four years ago, India lost its top position in the international cashew kernel export market to Vietnam. After establishing itself as a leading exporter, Vietnam is now eyeing the Indian market.
Vietnam exports about 160,000 tonnes of cashew kernels, of which the broken and splits varieties account for about 25 per cent. It is the largest exporter of kernels to the US.
Though India has imported major quantities of raw cashew nuts for many years and cashew kernels in small quantities through the last four years, this financial year, it has, for the first time, imported processed cashew nuts in large quantities. “We have been importing kernels in small quantities. For the last two years, we have imported a sizeable quantity. This year, imports have been considerably higher,” said Sasi Varma, secretary general, Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI).
In the first eight months of this financial year, India imported 3,245 tonnes of cashew kernel (worth Rs 53 crore), at an average of Rs 163.38 a kg. The majority of the imports were from Vietnam. In November 2012, India imported 298 tonnes of cashew kernel for Rs 5.82 crore, at an average of Rs 195 a kg. Domestically-processed cashew kernel is priced at Rs 480-Rs 500 a kg.
During 2011-12, India imported about 5,000 tonnes of cashew kernel.
“At this stage, compared to our exports, imports are minuscule. But this indicates the growing consumption by households and industrial users in India. Confectioners, ice-cream makers, restaurants, caterers, sweet marts, etc, have started using broken kernels in a big way,” said G Giridhar Prabhu, managing partner, Achal Cashews, a Mangalore-based exporter. He said there was no domestic market in Vietnam and the US didn’t import broken pieces. Therefore, it was trying to export its broken variety to India, he added.
According to CEPCI, cashew kernels were being imported in the guise of cattle feed. Importers were evading import duties and even if they were paying these, it was in negligible sums. This was because the importers were stating an average purchase price of Rs 125 a kg. The government had imposed 35 per cent import duty on cashew kernels and this had hit the domestic industry, said Walter D’Souza, former chairman, CEPCI.
India produces about 650,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts and imports 700,000 tonnes, to be processed into cashew kernels. In 2011-12, India exported 131,760 tonnes of kernels for Rs 4,390 crore. Domestic consumption is estimated at 150,000 tonnes (about Rs 5,000 crore).