Indian achievements in the cashew industry by far have not come easily.
Even though not much is known of the origins of the industry, it has been recorded that cashew processing on a commercial scale was first started in mid 1920's by Roch Victoria, a Sri Lankan who migrated to Quilon (Kollam).
He was assisted by Swaminathan from Madras . First exports have been made by W.T. Anderson who set up a business under the name Indian Nut Company in Quilon. A cottage industry flourished at that time across the Quilon town. Cashew nuts were fried in pans and kernels extracted, blanched, graded, and packed in wooden tea chests lined with newspaper before being shipped to the USA .
Later on, metal tin containers replaced tea chests.
Tin containers were vacuumed using hand operated vacuum pumps and were sealed. It was only in 1954 that 'Vita pack' machines were used to infuse tin containers with carbon dioxide gas.
Export of cashew kernels from India began to grow and many of the small time processors supplying cashew kernels to 'India Nut Company' ventured out and became exporters on their own account. The pattern of business that evolved comprised exporter, broker/agent, importer/ buyer and end-user. Agents/brokers promoted individual exporters on an exclusive basis. Import of raw cashew from Africa was introduced to cater to the growing demand for kernel as the international market share began to grow from 45 tons in 1923 to 1350 tons in 1939.
Import volumes expanded further during 1940 to 1941 to cater to the ever-rising demand that came from the exporter-processors.
The industry began to grow further with the expansion of capacities and ever increasing number of processing units. This made importers to take a speculative position on the commodity. To overcome obstacles suffered at the hands of the importers, industry leaders formed a 'Cashew Syndicate'.
Using resources pooled by the processors involved, the Syndicate began to purchase Indian raw nuts on pre-determined prices for distribution on the basis of the previous years performance.
Though it was a success at the beginning, the syndicate did not survive for long as it was not formed with a requisite legal framework.
It was 1955, the Cashew Export Promotion Council (CEPC) was formed under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce with the mandate to guide the industry in promoting exports of cashew kernel and allied products.
(published in ' daily news 'srilankan daily- march edition )