Indian firm launches new cashew products in Dubai

The Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC), a leading cashew exporter from India, is trying to revive the ailing cashew plantation industry in the south Indian state by introducing several value added products to the global market.

India is the largest producer and processor of raw cashew in the world.

Heavy demand from its huge domestic market has also made it the world's largest importer, though it does export some of its high-quality yield.

The Kerala state government-owned KSCDC, which exports almost 80 per cent of its production to the global market, has chosen Dubai to market its new products.

Dr KA Ratheesh, Managing Director of KSCDC, said: "We have chosen to launch the product from Dubai because it is a global business hub.

"KSCDC also wants to promote cashews in new and expanding areas of indirect consumption, such as chocolate, confectionery and bakery products and as a food ingredient."

The newly developed value added products from KSCDC were officially introduced to Dubai at a ceremony attended by Venu Rajamony, the Indian Consul General in the emirate.

The new line of products includes pepper flavoured cashew soup in powder form, pure cashew powder that can be added to food items during preparation, an instant health drink mix named Cashew Vita and a cashew mixture called Cashew Bits.

Marketed as CDC Cashews, the corporation is currently negotiating with UAE-based partners to distribute it in the international market. A state-of-the-art plant has been set up in Kottayam to produce these products and it was launched in Kerala by the state Chief Minister V S Achuthananthan.

Ratheesh said while prices of most commodities have been shooting up in the international market, exporters from India are suffering from the low international price for cashew and the steep appreciation of the Indian rupee.

"The world price for cashew is only $3 per pound and we are studying the possibility of making biodiesel from the cashew fruit, which is largely discarded," he said.

The KSCDC was formed to run cashew factories abandoned by their owners due to heavy losses. The corporation is now running about 30 cashew factories all over Kerala, and employs about 20,000 workers and 150 officials.

Cashew is cultivated in about 80,000 hectares in Kerala, making it the biggest cashew-producing region in the world.

Other Indian states such as Goa and Maharashtra also produce cashew. While the US and Europe are the main consuming countries, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain are major importers, too.

According to Ratheesh, the company has the capacity to produce 210 tonnes of raw cashew per day.

To increase production of indigenous raw nuts it is also starting new cashew plantations in the state and replacing old plants with high-yielding varieties.

With an annual turnover of 1,000 million Indian Rupees (Dh91m), the company reported a loss of 70 million Indian Rupees last year.

India has been the largest cashew producer in the world for more than 50 years, followed by Vietnam, Brazil and some African countries. The main thrust of Indian cashew export has traditionally been cashew kernels and cashew nut shell liquid.

The industry processes almost 1.1 million tonnes of raw nuts a year and the annual output is 250,000 tonnes of cashew kernels.

About 120,000 tonnes of kernels, mainly high-grade, are exported.

The numbers

80,000: Number of hectares in Kerala where cashews are farmed

20,000: Workers at KSCDC