India is the largest producer and processor of cashew in the world. The state of Kerala is the main processing and exporting centre of Cashew in India. Cashew (Anacardium occidentale ) tree is a native of Brazil and was introduced to Kerala by the Portuguese. The cashew industry in the state has a long history. Within five centuries, cashew industry has established as a major traditional agro-based industry in the state.
Cashew processing started as a cottage industry in the state. The success and quality of its product helped the state to establish itself as a major processing and exporting centre of cashew in India. The southern district of Kollam is where most of the cashew processing factories are located. Kollam thus rightfully earned the title “Cashew Capital of the World”. Processed cashews from here are exported to markets around the world. The sector employs around three hundred thousand workers and women form about ninety percent of this workforce.
The indigenous production of raw cashew nuts is only about 80000 tonnes an year, which is only a fraction of the state's processing capacity. The demand for raw cashew-nuts is about 800,000 tonnes a year. The production of raw cashew nuts in India declined from 725 MT in 2014 to 670 MT in 2014-15. In Kerala, over the last decade, the area under cashew cultivation as well as the production of cashew has not increased enough to meet the demand. This has created an ever increasing deficit between the demand and supply of raw cashew nuts. The productivity of cashew per hectare of land cultivated has also declined considerably. This deficit is a major cause of worry for the cashew processing industries in Kerala.
The Government has created created a special purpose vehicle to tackle the supply-demand problem in the procurement of raw cashew-nuts. Government has also undertaken efforts to increase the area of cashew cultivation and improve the productivity per hectare. It is being hoped that the initiatives of Government to improve the availability of raw cashew nuts will contribute to a revival of this traditional industry.