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Under-invoiced imports hit cashew kernel prices

G.K. Nair

KOCHI, Dec. 11

THE availability of cashew kernels of foreign origin, imported under different pretexts, in the domestic market is having an adverse impact on the local demand.

The import of cashew kernels from Brazil, Vietnam and African countries goes on unnoticed through Mumbai and Chennai ports, industry sources told Business Line. To evade the basic duty fixed for cashew kernels, the product is imported as "cattle-feed" and under-invoiced, they alleged According to them, consignments from Brazil is brought via Mumbai while that from Vietnam arrived through Chennai. "At least 10 tonnes of cashew kernels from these countries land up in India every month," they claimed.

The entire product is marketed in the major centres in the country for human consumption and this has in turn weakened the demand for the indigenous commodity, they said.

"We understand that lower grade kernels are being imported into India from Vietnam, Brazil and Tanzania under the guise of cattle/poultry feed. We have alerted the customs in this issue and they have advised all Commissioners of Customs to keep utmost vigil to prevent such clandestine imports," the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPC) said.

However, the import continues without much checking, the sources said. The CEPC Chairman, Mr K. Krishna Pillai, has recently appealed to the authorities concerned to be more vigilant and ensure that "lower grade cashew kernels are not imported into the country under any pretext as the loss of indigenous market will cause irreparable damage to our industry".

Industry sources urged the Union Government to take some measures similar to that initiated by the Spices Board for checking under-invoicing of imported cardamom and pepper by the customs authorities. There should have to be some mechanism to oversee if the imported product by evading the duty is used for the purpose it has been imported, trade sources said.

Cashew prices have already declined sharply in the international market.

The increased availability of cashew kernels from other sources is also a factor contributing to the fall in the prices. In fact, Vietnam continues to be the major competitor with the industry there receiving active support from its Government.

According to reports, it has exported more than 50,000 tonnes of cashew kernels during 2001-02. "In the coming days, we can expect stiffer competition not only in cashew kernels exports, but also in raw cashew nut imports," the sources said.

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