THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JUNE 28:

Kerala is seeking to collaborate with supplier countries in Africa to avoid the role of middlemen in procuring raw cashew nut for the hundreds of processing factories based here. It is hosting a two-day conclave on ‘Cashew trade for common good’ in association with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) involving diplomats from the African countries.

AFRICAN REPRESENTATION

Among the African nations being represented are Madagascar, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Gambia, Togo, and Mali. In her address, J Mercikuttiamma, Kerala Minister for Cashew Industries and Fisheries, requested the MEA to direct Indian Ambassadors to liaise with the concerned ministers and organisations to facilitate direct procurement of Raw cashew nut from the African countries, negotiate prices, and help an agency identified by the state government to inspect the stock and lift it.

Ambassadors/ High Commissioners of African nations may be requested to sign or prepare the agreements in consultation with their governments, aimed at long-term procurement with cooperatives or government institutions, subject to price agreements. Based on the relevant action and follow-up, the state government in coordination with the MEA would plan a visit to major suppliers of cashew nuts.

MUTUAL BENEFIT

The diplomatic conclave, the minister said, would benefit the African nations and the state government in more ways than one. Almost three lakh workers, mostly women, in Kerala are dependent on cashew processing for their livelihood. Most belong to the disadvantaged sections of the society. It is clear that they, along with the cashew farmers (producers) in the African nations, are going to be the biggest beneficiaries of the conclave. The conclave also aims to avoid the role of the middlemen and speculation in the cashew trade, the minister affirmed.

By virtue of their financial muscle and influence, the middlemen manipulate the prices raw cashew nut to their advantage.This is harming the interests of not only the cashew processing industry in India but also producers of raw cashew nuts in Africa.

SOUTH-SOUTH TIES

The diplomatic conclave is also expected to encourage Government-to-Government or public sector-to-public sector cooperation between India (Kerala) and Africa in the cashew sector. “We hope that procurement of greater quantum of raw cashew nuts from Africa will contribute to the welfare of cashew workers in Kerala and farmers in Africa,” the minister said. The relationship should be seen as another way to deepen South-South partnership between India and Africa. The minister said that both raw cashew cultivation and cashew nut processing form part of a bigger industry in which multinational companies control the high value-adding segments.

“India and Africa should seek to emerge as key players in the global food industry. We should try to retain the value of our food products within our own domestic market, firms and workers.”