At a time when the cashew processing sector in the State is facing an uncertain future, K. Raveendranathan Nair could probably be the only surviving veteran cashew processor from the State who has been continuously making handsome profits since the past 60 years. Mr. Nair said that mechanisation of the industry in the State was the basic requirement now to make prospects look brighter for the sector in the light of the severe competition from international and domestic markets not only from Vietnam but also from other States in the country. “But in Kerala, it continues to be a difficult proposition.”
The 84-year-old cashew baron will next month be conferred with the prestigious “Golden Nut Award” by Spain-based International Nut and Dried Fruit Council at the 37th World Nut and Dried Fruit Congress to be held in Chennai. Talking to The Hindu , he shared some of his viewpoints on how to prevent the cashew industry in the State from going extinct.
Mr. Nair said that it was not trade union militancy that had brought the adverse situation for cashew industry in the State but the lack of a proper policy from successive governments to maintain the health of the industry which had brought about the situation. He said that a comprehensive scientific study from the government side was required to find solutions to the problem. “Right now, I cannot say for sure whether Kollam will earn back the cashew citadel status,” he said.
He is still puzzled how Kollam became the citadel of processed cashew when there was no scientific background for this industry to take roots in the district. This was mainly because there was no raw nut production worth the mention in and around Kollam. The American Lindsay Johnson pioneered it during the late 1920s. At that time, Johnson had outsourced processing to a few persons “and they included my father P. Krishna Pillai,” he said.
A piece of history
“When Johnson left India in the 1940s, some of the persons engaged in the outsourcing process turned leading cashew processors and they included Thangal Kunju Musaliar, Swaminathan and my father.” Mr. Nair who entered the cashew processing industry in 1957 said that even at that time, 75 per cent of the raw nuts required by the industry here was imported. When the industrial climate for cashew turned adverse in the State, Mr. Nair shifted 20 of his factories to Tamil Nadu. His remaining 16 factories in Kerala that operated for some years after that is now kept closed because it is not viable to run them.