Indian Cashew Production : India is the largest grower, processor and exporter of Cashew Nuts in the world. Cashew is one of the important commercial crops in India, and India has over 700,000 ha. Cashew plantation and has annual output of over 400,000 tons of raw cashew nuts. Cashew is grown in the western and eastern coastal areas and further island, and the major production states are Kerala, Andbra, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu; Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh also have a small amount of production.
Cashew kernels is consumed all over the world as a premium snack and nowadays more used as a preferred ingredient due to its excellent flavor and unique texture in large array of foods like sweets, dates, ice-creams and so on. It can be dried or oil roasted, salted, coated with chocolate, spices, honey, etc.
Overview of the Cashew Processing in India : The products of cashew fruit are cashew apple and cashew nuts/kernels. In India, cashew apple is extensively used only in Goa to prepare cashew liquor called feni.
The cashew kernel is covered by a thin membrane called testa, which contains the non-edible substance tannin and protects the tasty kernel from the ravages of nature until it is processed. So, processing of cashew kernel is indispensable. The kernel yield is around 22%-24% of in-shell cashew. The major by-product of processing is cashew nut shell liquid (cashew shell oil), which is an important raw material in the manufacture of resin.
Due to the steady growth of world demand for cashew nuts, cashew process industry has become a high-profit industry. The cashew nut processing industries are typically located in the rural and backward areas. The number of cashew processing units in India increased rapidly from 170 in 1959 to as many as 3,650 in 2005-2006, which scattered in many states of the country provided employment to over 0.5 million people, 95% of these are women, and India processed about 1.18 million MT of raw cashew seeds at that time. Probably, the country might have around 4,000 cashew processing units.
Cashew Nut Processing : The cashew industries in India employ different unit operations/ methodology for processing. Traditionally, the raw nuts are processed manually by the experienced semi-skilled workers. Since the 1960s, the processes came to be mechanized for roasting, shelling, and CNSL extraction. Nevertheless, for the most part, cleaning of raw materials and kernel grading by sizes have still remained manual operation. Cashew nut processing is generally done on a home scale and factory scale in India. In the home scale process, the dried nuts are burnt in an open fire and hand shelled, in which maximum over-burnt and charred kernels are recovered and the valuable cashew nut shell liquid is wasted completely. The nut is graded into three or more groups and is conditioned to about 16% moisture by soaking or spraying water, and then the nut is roasted either by drum, or oil bath or steam roasting methods.