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Description | Overview | History | Cultivation pattern | Cashew producing countries | Indian cashew market | Major trading centers

Cashew is a tropical evergreen plant, belonging to the family of Anacardiaceae, known for its seeds that are consumed worldwide. This plant is actually a small to medium sized tree with a single trunk and thick leaves. The sweet flavored nut like seeds are obtained from the bottom of the false fruit of this tree, which is termed as cashew apples. The outer covering of the seeds are toxic and is hence removed before consuming the seed. These kidney shaped kernels are of different grades, sizes and colors.


Cashew seed is the food product of the new world as it is a native to Brazil. It is placed third among the largest consumed tree nuts in the world. Cashew is largely consumed as a dry fruit or an ingredient in different cuisines of different cultures of the world. It is also used in the grounded form that is called cashew butter. This seed has a high level of oil content in it and that is why has some industrial uses as well. the oil is required for two main purposes i.e. used in brake linings as a friction particle and also as a major constituent in phenalkamine that is used as a floor coating material.

The commercial production of cashew seed is done in more than 32 countries of the world. The seed generally prosper in the hot and humid regions of the earth near the equator like in central and south American zone, India and oceanic zone and African zone. The world’ total produce in the context of cashews is around 22.5 lakh tons per annum. Vietnam is the largest producer of  raw cashew followed by India and Brazil. India dominates and leads the cashew kernel production list. The total area in the world under cashew cultivation figures up to 35.1 lakh hectares. The world consumption of cashew has ever been rising with time. In 1955 the world production figures for cashew consumption was 125000 tons which rose up to around 1 million tons in 1995 and now it is almost same as the level of production. The major cashew consuming countries in the world leaded by United States of America are

  • United States of America

  • European Union

  • India

The trade pattern in cashew in the world suggest that 8 to 9 million cartons of cashews are traded in the world in an year. The main countries that constitute the world cashew exporting list are

  • India (4.5 million cartons)

  • Vietnam (2.3 million cartons)

  • Brazil (1.75 million cartons)

  • Tanzania

  • Ghana

India contributes to over half of the world cashew exports. Vietnam gives a tough competition to India in the world market as it is the largest cashew producing nation of the world but still India is ahead in this scenario. Vietnam plans to take over India's dominance till 2010. Due to a large consumption level of this seed in the world, there is a long list of cashew importing countries, dominated by United States. Following are some of the major countries in that list

  • United States of America (4.5 million cartons)

  • European Union (2 million cartons)

  • China (0.75 million cartons)

  • United Arab Emirates

  • Japan

  • Saudi Arabia


As already mentioned, cashew plant is a native of the tropical parts of the South American continent commonly around Brazil. The weather in those regions remains quite hot and humid that played a key factor for the plant to survive and develop. The rain forests in that part were the places where the cashew tree actually grew but in those areas it hardly produced many nuts. The question that for how long the Native Americans had been using the cashew nuts is unanswered till now but when America was discovered, it was found that the local South American people were already using the nuts from these plants. Cashew nuts were consumed after roasting and removing all the toxic. If anyone owned a cashew tree in the 1500s, it was considered to be among the richest and important persons in that region.

The Portuguese took this plant to the old world and planted it European countries. This was the time cashew started to become famous in the world. Portuguese were the one who introduced this crop into India mainly in Goa five centuries ago for wine and brandy production. It was also planted as it helped in binding the soil. The commercial importance of cashew nuts was not known at that time. The climate in here was well suited to the plant and it prospered in the other parts of the country too. Trading in cashews started as late as in 1920s.

Cultivation pattern

Cashew is a plant that depends on tropical climate to prosper. Rain is also a significant factor, which affects the growth of the crop and that is why an appropriate level of rainfall is required. The plant has a vast root system that makes it a drought resistant crop. The soil type that suits the plant is poor sandy type of soil. The fact that the plants have deep complex root system suggests that the soil should be a properly drained one. Cold temperatures also affect the crop negatively. Cashew plant begins to bear nuts after 3 to 5 years of plantation.

In India, cashew is mostly planted in the months of June, July and August before the onset of the monsoon as it is considered to be the ideal time for the cashew seeds to be sown. The nuts require around 8 to 10 weeks to develop and become mature. The cashew apple and the cashew nut shed off themselves when they reach the stage of maturity. The nuts are manually collected by hand from the ground and the apples still on trees are hand picked. Great care is needed in the post harvest period until the cashews are processed.

Cashew producing countries

Cashew is produced in almost 32 countries of the world and now it has become the number 1 crop in the world taking over almonds. It is generally found in the tropical zone of the planet as it thrives on a hot and dry climate. The world production figures of this crop hover around 22.5 lakh tons per year. The major raw cashew producing countries along with their production figures in 2005 are

  • Vietnam (827000 tons)

  • India (460000 tons)

  • Brazil (251268 tons)

  • Nigeria (213000 tons)

  • Indonesia (122000 tons)

  • Tanzania (100000 tons)

  • Cote de Ivoire (90000 tons)

  • Guinea (81000 tons)

  • Mozambique (58000 tons)

  • Benin (40000 tons)

  • Thailand (24000 tons)

  • Malaysia (13000 tons)

  • Kenya (10000 tons)

  • Ghana (7500 tons)

  • Philippines (7000 tons)

  • Madagascar (6500 tons)

  • Sri Lanka (6200 tons)

  • Senegal (4500 tons)

  • Burkina Faso (3500 tons)

  • El Salvador (2600 tons)

Regarding the production of cashew kernels in the world, India is the top most producer. Prior to 2002, India was also the leading producer of raw cashews in the world but in that year Vietnam took over the lead from India. The production trend of cashew has ever been rising and it has doubled since the year 1994. World’s total area under the cultivation of cashew crop is around 35.1 lakh hectares, India is at the top in list of the countries regarding the maximum area utilized in  production of cashew. It is considered to be a high ratio of area as compared to the yield of the crop due to low productivity, the world’s average yield being just 700 ponds per acre of land.

Production of cashew in India

India has always been a major player in the production of cashew. It is the second largest producer of raw cashew in the world but conquers the 1st place among the largest producing countries of cashew kernels and also in the maximum area covered that figures to be 7.70 lakh hectares currently. The country provides with around 55% supply of cashew kernels in the world. The Indian production of cashews contributes to around 4.6 lakhs tons per annum. The major states in India in which cashew is cultivated are

  • Kerala

  • Karnataka

  • Goa

  • Maharashtra

  • Tamil Nadu

  • Andhra Pradesh

  • Orissa

  • West Bengal

Maharashtra leads the list above with an annual production of 174000 tons and also has the maximum area covered i.e. 160000 hectares. The country’s average annual yield per hectare is 810 kilograms.

Indian cashew market

Cashew made an entry into Indian subcontinent through Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. The climate in the country suited the crop so well that it spread along in all the direction of the continent. India became the leader in the cashew production till in 2002 its dominating position was taken over by Vietnam. The country is still the second largest country producing raw cashew nuts. It is also is the largest country producing cashew kernels, the largest country indulging in the processing of this food product and the largest exporter of cashews in the world.

The Indian production of cashews is around 4.6 lakh tons per year. Maharashtra stands 1st among the main cashew producing states in India followed by Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The country also is the third largest consumer of the food product in the world after United States and European Union as it consumes over 3 million cartons per annum.

As India is the largest processor country in the world, it is left with more quantity for exports that also makes it the largest exporter in the world cashew market. It annually exports around 4 million cartons in one year. The major countries that import Indian cashew are

  • United States of America (43149 tons)

  • Netherlands (18736 tons)

  • United Kingdom (6238 tons)

  • United Arab Emirates (8274 tons)

  • Japan (4685 tons)

  • France (3470 tons)

  • Saudi Arabia (2827 tons)

  • Spain (2648 tons)

  • Russia (1990 tons)

  • Germany (1991 tons)

  • Canada (1558 tons)

  • Greece (1859 tons)

India some how imports small quantities raw cashew nuts from the African countries so as to meet the international demand for Indian processed cashew kernels. Cashew industry is directly connected to the growth of the economy as India earns a good amount of foreign exchange by exporting cashews. Cashew ranks second among the horticultural commodities exported from India. This industry also gives employment to around 3 lakh people in the country and the demand for Indian cashews is quite large due to qualitative edge over other countries.

Market Influencing Factors

  • Production fluctuations in the major raw cashew nut producing countries
  • Indirect domestic demand due to the presence of large unorganized sector
  • Government policies
  • Market share held by the competitive countries
Major trading centers of cashew

The major trading centers of cashew in India are

  • Palasa

  • Kollam

  • Manglore

  • Quilon

  • Kochi

Also, cashew is traded in Indian commodity exchanges namely, National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange ltd and Multi Commodity Exchange of India ltd

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