Kerala’s Cashew industry in dire straits, Industries Minister P. Rajeeve tells Assembly

Mr. Rajeeve says it was the unprofessional manner in which the Corporation and CAPEX were being run that had resulted in this crisis

Industries Minister P. Rajeeve has said the cashew industries in the State is in a serious crisis and that the Government will have to take stringent measures to ensure that cashew factories under the Cashew Development Corporation and CAPEX were run professionally and profitably.

Replying to a calling attention motion on the crisis in the cashew industries raised by legislator G. S. Jayalal in the Assembly here on Thursday, Mr. Rajeeve said the State set up the Kerala Cashew Board in 2017 after the Cashew Corporation and CAPEX were in dire straits financially, with either unable to take further bank loans. However, the situation now is such that the Board is ending up in the same financial mess that CAPEX and the Cashew Corporation were in.

The Board is procuring raw cashew nuts and giving it free of cost to the Corporation and CAPEX for processing in its factories. But these two institutions are not giving any returns to the Board.

Mr. Rajeeve said that it was the unprofessional manner in which the Corporation and CAPEX were being run that had resulted in this crisis. “How long can an industry be run like this is something that has to be discussed seriously,” he said.

Loan settlement

The State Government is in the process of drawing up a one-time loan settlement formula with banks for cashew factory owners in the private sector, which is expected to materialise within a month.

The Principal Secretary (Cashew) has been entrusted with the task of discussing the issues of loan recovery proceedings with the representatives of various banks and arriving at a one-time settlement formula. Once this has been settled, these factories should be able to start working again, said Mr. Rajeeve in the Assembly here.

Mr. Rajeeve said that the previous Left Government had already announced a reconstruction and revival package for private cashew industries. This, as well as the one-time settlement of loans, is expected to bring about a change in the sector.

He said that the cashew factories under the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation and the Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Cooperative Society (CAPEX), which had remained closed since March 2020 following COVID, were now fully functional.

The Cashew Board had already imported 8,000 metric tonnes of raw cashew for the year and this stock was expected to be enough to keep these 20 factories in the public sector running till December this year, saving the livelihood of thousands of cashew workers.

New package

The Government has announced a new package for the renovation of the factories, including partial mechanisation and brand-building exercises, for the public sector cashew factories for which ₹6 crore had been earmarked for the Cashew Development Corporation and ₹5.5 crore for CAPEX in the State Budget.

The Government is also trying to improve the domestic production of cashew by supplying hybrid varieties of cashew saplings to farmers through the Kerala State Agency for Cashew Cultivation, which has been allocated ₹6.5 crores, Mr. Rajeeve said.

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