KOLLAM: At a time when the cashew sector is grappling with the rising labour costs, the direct delivery of raw cashew to Kollam Port has engendered new hopes.
Earlier,the ferrying of raw cashew here, which is regarded as the cashew hub, meant huge expenses for the sector, since it was dependent on Tuticorin and Kochi ports. Now, though, with the successful delivery of raw cashew from Guinea Bissau by a foreign registered vessel that anchored at the port here on August 30, the exporters are hopeful of offsetting the rise in the labour costs.
Over 65,000 sacks of raw cashew--with each sack weighing 80 kg-- were taken to the factories of 15 private cashew manufacturers defying even a general strike.
Also, the port of call made by the cashew-laden vessel was an epoch-making moment, as it was after gap of almost 50 years that a ship had ferried cashew to the town. Though the town is still a major hub of cashew sector, the last direct import to the port was in 1968. At present, Tuticorin Port (V O Chidambaranar Port) handles 60 per cent of the 7.5 lakh metric tonnes of cashew imported and the rest is handled by Cochin Port (Vallarpadom). From there it is ferried via road. As much as 30 per cent of the raw cashew imported via Tuticorin Port is ferried to the factories here using 43,000 truck loads on an average.
But transporting cashew on trailers entails an additional cost of `4,500-7,000 to the manufacturers. Coupled with it is the 40 per cent increase in the wages and the bonus-cum-ex-gratia the industry, which has prompted the industry to set in motion the process for setting up shop in the neighbouring states.
The crisis has impacted the state’s share in cashew processing, which has come down to 28 per cent from the monopoly of 82 per cent, that it enjoyed a decade ago. “We have been trying to reduce the transportation costs by promoting coastal shipping from major ports. While the work in this regard is under way,the direct delivery has cheered up the industry.” said Bhoodes R K, chairman of the Federation of Indian Cashew Industry.
The industry is expected to offset a third of the transportation costs and more importantly the delivery time. The exporters are hopeful of repeating this strategy when the season for high quality Tanzanian crop starts in November. When there is a shortage of containers during season it is considered beneficial to use the break bulk vessel on which raw cashew is loaded in sacks. It would be good news for Kollam Port and the cashew manufacturers here as the port has proved its capability in handling break bulk ships.