THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state is set to hold a diplomatic conclave of 15 cashew producing African nations on Wednesday to explore the possibility of direct procurement of raw nuts for processing. The meeting will have the participation of senior diplomats from West and East African countries. A Representative of the Union External Affairs Ministry will also participate in the meeting to be held at Taj Vivanta Hotel.
The meeting, considered to be a maiden initiative by a state government, assumes significance as the industry faces the double whammy of stiff international competition and rising input cost.
The 700 cashew factories in the state are dependent heavily on African nations for raw cashew nuts. Sufficient raw nuts of better quality nuts is a prerequisite for providing at least 300 days of work in an industry that employs 3 lakh women.
Centralised purchasing of raw nuts by avoiding intermediaries will help the state regain its spot in the cashew sector. “We are aiming to provide more working days by ensuring supply through this initiative,” said Minister for Fisheries, Harbour Engineering and Cashew Industry, J Mercykutty Amma.
The Minister is keen to promote the ‘Kollam Brand’ of cashews known for its distinct taste, colour and shelf-life, processed using the traditional method of drum roasting.
The LDF government had earlier mooted setting up of ‘Kerala Cashew Board’ in a public-private partnership for procurement and export of cashew. The raw nuts procured will be made available to the Kerala Cashew Development Corporation, Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Co-operative (CAPEX) and private processors. The meeting aims to explore the possibility of enhancing the export market from Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 9,000 crore.
The state, having announced its plans to improve domestic production, will also seek the help of visiting nations to improve its cashew yield. At present, the domestic yield is 760 kg per hectare.
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