Mixed response in cashew sector

While public sector welcomes measures, private processors say they got a raw deal

Kerala Budget 2021 has generated mixed response from various quarters in the cashew sector with private processors complaining they were offered a raw deal.

While an outlay of ₹40 crore has been set aside for Cashew Board, ₹63 crore goes into the disbursal of gratuity arrears and ₹10.5 crore has been earmarked for the modernisation of factories run by the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) and the Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Cooperative Society (Capex). Since maximising domestic production is an important goal, ₹5.5 crore has been sanctioned for the extension of cashew cultivation.

90% workers in private sector

“The crisis-ridden industry had to face another blow in the form of COVID-19 and we were expecting a comprehensive revival package benefiting the industry as a whole. More than 90% of skilled labourers working in the sector are attached to private processing units and the government has turned a blind eye towards them,” says D. Mathewkutty, president, Cashew Industry Protection Council.

Though the previous three Budgets allocated a total outlay ₹65 crore for providing interest subsidy for private processors, many of them could not resume operations due to the non-cooperation of banks and the difficulty in getting their loans restructured. “Unless the government facilitates any such process, it will be very hard for the sector to stay afloat. What we need is strong intervention since there are several technical issues involved. The Budget failed to meet our expectations as it provides no solution to fix this,” says Nizamudeen I., president, Federation of Cashew Processors and Exporters.

He also points out that though a solid amount was set aside for the purpose, disbursement has been minimal. “We agree that it offered us some relief and a number of processors benefited from it. At the same time more than 370 accounts have been declared non-performing assets (NPAs) and around 560 factories are still lying closed.”

Gratuity arrears

Meanwhile, the public sector has welcomed the Budget as it ensures more working days and allocates a substantial outlay to clear the huge backlog of gratuity arrears. “The KSCDC and Capex had inducted 5,000 labourers in the previous financial year and this time 2,000 more persons will be provided jobs at government-run factories. With Cashew Board procuring 30,000 tonnes of raw cashew nut (RCN), we can also guarantee around 300 working days at our factories,” says KSCDC chairman S. Jayamohan. He adds that the Budget allocates enough funds to disburse the gratuity arrears of labourers till date, a major feat and a first in the history of the State. “The government has already spent ₹52 crore to disburse the arrears till 2014 and with the new allocation we will be clearing the entire amount. Moreover, the consistent allocation to promote cashew farming will stimulate long-term growth by helping the sector to become self-reliant.”

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