Kochi: The mega cashew industry in Kerala has lately been facing a crisis, as over 80 per cent of the factories have shut down, leaving lakhs of workers unemployed.
According to an NDTV report, Kerala's Kollam district, which is known as the hub of cashew processing and exporting, housed 834 factories. Of 834, a staggering 700 factories have shut down in the last two years. This affected around three lakh employees -- mostly women -- who now have been left without jobs, claim industry insiders.
The factories were a source of livelihood for many women in the district, who say they are ready to compromise on their wages if the units are reopened.
A former worker at a cashew nut processing unit in Kalluvathukkal, Girija said, "I used to work in the peeling section. We got wages according to the weight of the cashews we processed, which was hiked from Rs 16/kg to Rs 36/kg. There were more than 640 workers in our company."
Another worker, Sudharma told ANI, "I used to get about Rs 3,000 each month. I am simply sitting now. We hope the company will reopen. Owners said they were in crisis due to the increase in wages directed by Kerala government. We are ready to work for lower wages."
But it's not just the workers. According to an NDTV report, owners like Rajesh K have incurred losses after his processing unit in Kollam was declared a non-performing asset.
Meanwhile, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) held the state government responsible for the crisis.
"In the last six months, cashew factories in Kerala closed due to wrong policies of governments. The industry provides job to over 3 lakh people in and around Kollam. Some people want to spoil this industry by imposing unnecessary compliance and formalities," INTUC president R Chandrasekharan said.
Various reasons have led to the downfall of the cashew industry. The cost of raw cashew has steeped globally and in Kerala, obsolete machinery and wages have added to the existing crisis.
However, the losses here have proven to be a victory for Vietnam which has emerged as a cheaper global alternative.
(With inputs from ANI)