Cashew nut harvest disrupted, farmers fear crop loss

Cashew nut harvest disrupted due to coronavirus lockdown, farmers fear crop loss

Karnataka, the second largest producer of raw cashew nuts after Kerala, accounts for about 15% of the national output pegged at 5.5 lakh tonnes this year.

Cashew nut harvesting (carried out between March and May) has come to a standstill across growing regions of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, and Shivamogga districts in Karnataka and other states with the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown to fight COVID-19.

In addition to this, the closure of processing units and retail markets has resulted in the price crash for raw nuts. Currently, the raw nut prices (ex-farmgate) have crashed up to 45% to touch Rs 70 per kg from Rs 125 per kg during the last year’s season. Fearing continuation of the lockdown, farmers have resorted to distress selling of their produce.

Karnataka, the second largest producer of raw cashew nuts after Kerala, accounts for about 15% of the national output pegged at 5.5 lakh tonnes this year. The state produces around 75,000 tonnes annually. There are around 300 processing units engaging in excess of 50,000 workers, largely women, who are paid about Rs 400 per day.

Rahul Kamath, partner, Bola Surendra Kamath & Sons told DH, "The trade is very badly affected in the last two weeks. This is the peak harvesting season for cashew nut industry and farmers are unable to carry out their operations due to shortage of farm labour. There is a greater danger for the fallen nuts as the unseasonal rain will damage them." 

Usually, by April, about 50% of the total harvesting gets over. But this year, due to the lockdown, the farm operations have been severely impacted, he said.

He said the farmers are unable to move their already harvested nuts to the processing units as the police have restricted movement of vehicles. “We have requested the agriculture secretary to issue an advisory to farmers not to resort to distress selling. Cashew nuts are not perishable and farmers need to dry them properly and store for up to one year without any problem,” Kamath said.

As a result of the lockdown, the prices of cashew kernels (ready to eat) have declined by 10-15% to Rs 620 per kg (ex-factory).

Apart from this, exports of cashew kernels are also held up due to the lockdown. About Rs 60 crore worth of kernels (60 containers) is held up at Mangalore for exports. “The Mangalore port is functioning. But we need to get the custom clearance and passing of shipping bills before exporting,” said Giridhar Prabhu, managing partner, Achal Cashew.

For the year ended March 2020, India’s cashew kernel exports stood at 65,000 tonnes. India stands at second place in the world after Vietnam in the export market.

He also urged the state government to arrange COVID-compatible special buses to ferry workers to the factories for at least three months once the lockdown is lifted.