The introduction of cashew to India was made in Goa by a native of Eastern Brazil nearly five centuries back. Considered as a crop for afforestation and soil binding, it spread from here to other parts of the country. Its commercial utilisation began in the early 60’s. Apart from nuts, apple and other byproducts of this crop are of commercial significance. Because of its adaptive ability in varied agro climatic conditions it became an export oriented commodity bringing in considerable foreign exchange to the country. Among the Agri-Horticultural commodities India exports, cashew ranks the 2nd position.
India is the largest producer and exporter of over 65% of cashew kernels in the world, the major markets being the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Germany Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and the Middle East countries.
Kerala accounts for 61.46% of the total quantity of cashew kernels exported and valued around US$ 543 Million, contributing to 61.29% of the total value. The United States is the biggest market for Cashew kernels from India, taking up 39% of total quantity of Cashew Kernels exported. The Netherlands and U.A.E come in second and third place with 16.33% and 8.05% of the total exports, respectively.
Cashew kernels are obtained through factory processing (roasting / steaming, shelling and peeling) of cashew nuts. Indian cashew kernel is well acclaimed for its superior quality, flavour and appearance. Cashew kernels are graded into white/scorched wholes, pieces, splits, butts etc according to the shape, size & colour of the kernel.
26 grades of cashew kernels are commercially available and exported from the country. Regular shipping services exist from India to all ports of the world; significant quantity of the shipment from India takes place through Cochin port.
India is also the largest area holder of this crop. Cultivation of cashew in India confines mostly to the peninsular areas. It is grown in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra along the west coast and Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal along the east coast. Cashew industry initiates employment in the processing as well as agrarian sector employing around 3 lakh people with 95% of them being women.
The Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation Limited, a fully government undertaking, was incorporated in July 1969 and began commercial activities in 1971. It plays a crucial role in the cashew industry of the world and has developed cashew plantations in the State. It is a model employer in the cashew industry mainly because it safeguards the interests of workers. It provides maximum employment to its workers, giving statutory benefits like minimum wages, bonus and other perks available. The corporation has also introduced value added cashew products in the market.