Kerala’s much-touted initiative to lease 50,000 acre for cashew cultivation in Andhra Pradesh for the cashew processing industry in Kerala has drawn a blank. Because of acute shortage of raw cashew nuts (RCN), nearly 900 processing factories in Kerala are non-functional. “After the initial round of discussions in February 2017, Andhra Pradesh officials have been lukewarm about proceeding with the agreement,” Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the state assembly here. He was candid that “the plan is unlikely to work out.” The plan sponsored by the National Horticulture Mission was envisaged as a win-win situation for both states when the joint initiative was spelt out last year. Kerala, through its agency for expansion of cashew KSACC, would lease 50,000 acre in Andhra Pradesh at Rs 700 crore for five years to cultivate cashew nuts for the cashew processing industry in Kerala. For Andhra Pradesh, the potential job opportunity was the main attraction. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration and especially about the 75 lakh man-days of employment that the project would create for Andhra farmers.
According to sources in cashew industry, there was no dissonance between the two states as the detailed project report was prepared for rolling out the project from 2017-18 to 2021-22 in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and the two Godavari districts. “As the procedures were on to train the farmers in AP in the procedures for growing the high-yielding cashew grafts, AP demanded that the harvested nuts could not be taken to the processing industry in Kerala. Instead, the growing state sought that the processing industry should migrate to AP and create more industrial jobs too. This was not acceptable to Kerala as the whole point of the collaboration was to feed the raw nut shortage in the cashew industry in Kerala,” chief executive of a cashew unit told FE on condition of anonymity. Kerala’s processing industry needs 6 lakh metric tonne (MT) of RCN per year but the annual nut production in the state is barely 80,000 MT. The state has increased the incentives for cashew cultivation, and even school compounds in Kerala are encouraged to grow cashew nuts.
“Where Andhra Pradesh backed out, the producer African nations have extended help,” says Pinarayi Vijayan. With the help of the ministry of external affairs, Kerala has been negotiating prices directly with cashew producing countries including Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Tanzania and Mozambique.