The cashew, native to Brazil and part of the family of flowering plants, is a popular nut thanks to its slightly sweet flavor, satisfying crunch, buttery texture and its versatility in culinary applications. Cashew kernels have high nutritional values, being rich in proteins (18.22g/100g), fat (43.85g/100g), and iron (6.68 mg/100 g).

In the 1500s’ Portuguese colonists planted cashew seeds in the Western Ghats of India (Goa) with the sole purpose of preventing soil erosion. However, the plant adapted to the Indian soil, climate and biotic conditions and blossomed. Commercial cultivation of cashews picked up in the early 1960s and the nuts earn considerable foreign exchange for India through exports. Such is the profitability that cashew cultivation has even expanded to the Eastern Ghats of India.

The cashew harvesting season in India is normally from late February to early June. According to the Directorate of Cashewnut & Cocoa Development (DCCD), the 2019 domestic cultivation covered approximately 1.1 million hectares that harvested around 740,000 million ton (MT) of crop. The State of Maharashtra contributed 26 percent, followed by Andhra Pradesh (22 percent), Odisha (13 percent), Karnataka (10 percent), Kerala (10 percent), Tamil Nadu (8 percent) and Goa (4 percent), with the remaining 7 percent originating from the rest of India.

Furthermore, India imported 850,000 MT during 2019 that translates to a 53-percent share in the near 1.6 million MT of cashew inshell domestic processing industry. An ever-increasing domestic consumption of the kernel, higher dependence on imported raw material from Africa and amplified competitiveness of Vietnam has led to a sharp reduction in Indian kernel exports over the last 10 years. According to the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) India exported only 68,000 metric tons of Kernel in 2019, which contributes to only 19 percent of the domestic processing industry; the remaining 81 percent is consumed in India.

Import-Export percentage breakup

As per the DGCIS, the port-wise percentage breakup of cashews imports in India is as following:

  • Tuticorin – 50 percent
  • New Mangalore – 29 percent
  • Visakhapatnam – 10 percent
  • Mundra – 3 percent
  • Kolkata – 2 percent
  • Rest of India – 6 percent

The port-wise percentage breakup of cashew exports is:

  • Cochin – 46 percent
  • New Mangalore – 19 percent
  • Tuticorin – 15 percent
  • Visakhapatnam – 15 percent
  • Rest of India – 5 percent

India Raw Cashew Nut Imports (3-Year Average)

India Cashew Kernel Export (2019)

In India, commercial scale cashew processing was first started in the mid-1920's by Roch Victoria, a Sri Lankan who migrated to Quilon (Kollam), in Kerala. This led to a birth of many well-known cashew processors such as the Kerala Nut Food Co., established in 1925, which is one of the pioneers of the Indian cashew industry. Many others followed such as VLC (established in 1957), Bola Cashew (BRK), Alphonsa (both 1958), St. Mary (1963), Prasanthi, Mahalasa (both 1983), IFE (1984), DVK (1986), St. Paul (SPCF) (1994), Sridevi (1995), Reliable Cashew (2005) to name a few.

However, Vietnam emerged as a big competitor for these domestic players, forcing the industry as a whole to adopt mechanization. Over the last 6-7 years, the Indian processing industry consolidated to approximately 3,000 units under operation from the earlier figure of more than 4,000 units, which was the level the industry operated around early 2010. 

The Indian processing industry is highly fragmented, with different states closely vying for biggest piece of the pie. Rough estimates from Olam data show Kerala topping the processing ladder board with 20 percent market share, closely followed by Maharashtra (18%), Karnataka (16%), Tamil Nadu (12%), Andhra Pradesh (11%), Odisha (11%), West Bengal (6%), and Goa (3%) etc. More states are entering the cashew processing market with Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan throwing their hats in the ring.

With around 275,000 tons of cashew kernel consumption domestically, India is one of the top consumers in the world.

Snacking unsurprisingly tops consumption in India with 30 percent of the share followed by Bakery & Confectionary, Sweets & savory, HORECA, frozen desserts, all accounting for 15 percent each in the consumption pie chart. Temples, Marriages and Functions round of domestic consumption by accounting for the remaining 10 percent.