Though specific dates on the origins of the commercial trade of cashew nuts are vague, Swathy Enterprise reports early trade began in the mid-1920s with Roch Victoria, a Sri Lankan who migrated to Quilon, India. Cashew nut exports from India started under the Indian Nut Company in Quilon, and by the 1940s, imports started to increase as processing demands began to grow. The cashew tree requires a warm, humid climate in which to thrive and produce. Locations featuring coastal sands optimise growing conditions for cashew trees and have become the world's leaders in cashew production. Cashew imports depend on processing facilities, economic structure and demand.
Not only is India one of the world's largest growers and processors of cashew nuts, it is also one of the world's largest importers of cashews in part because their processing facilities are among the most efficient in the world. According to the Ghana Export Promotion Council, India imports 270,000 metric tons of raw cashew nuts annually. India imports and exports 90 per cent of the world's cashew production for reprocessing and exporting to other countries for consumption.
In a newsletter report from Business Africa, market analysis figures show that the U.S. is the largest consumer market for cashew nuts accounting for 50 per cent of the world's imports. According to a March 2010 article in "Financial Express" by Rajesh Ravi, U.S. cashew imports were traditionally supplied from India. However, due to intense competition from Vietnam, cashew imports from India to the U.S. have been on the decline since 2003.
The Netherlands is second to the U.S. in cashew imports, accounting for nearly 12 per cent of the world's cashew supply (that's 26,000 tons annually). The Netherlands is also home to many trade marketing and distribution companies that sell cashews.
The United Kingdom accounts for five per cent of the world's cashew nut imports. European countries typically process cashews for roasted and salted versions in order to meet consumer taste preferences. Traditional English holiday gifts include boxed and seasoned cashews.
Germany imports four per cent of the world's cashew supply. Hamburg is the major international trading centre for Germany and the place where cashews initially reach port. The European Union, along with Asia, typically imports cashews from Africa, which produces one third of the world's supply.
Australia also imports four per cent of the cashews grown in the world. In Australia's warm climate, small cashew nut farming has been a growing industry since 2003. Smaller cashew farms in Australia typically sell partial crop yields to larger local farms.
Canada's cashew imports total four per cent of the world's supply and come mainly from India. Canadian researchers are studying the possibilities of cashew nut seed extract as an aid in treating diabetes. According to author Pierre S. Haddad, Ph.D., a pharmacology professor at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Medicine, the cashew nut seed contains active compounds that may have potential anti-diabetic properties.
Vietnam and Brazil
Vietnam and Brazil import the remaining 21 per cent of cashews for processing and consumption. Vietnam has become a major competitor to India in terms of revenue support from cashew production and processing. Brazil's market has improved in its own right with imports rising dramatically since the 1970s to keep up with export demands, particularly from the U.S. Processing capacities have also grown in Brazil, making it a formidable contender with India in cashew growth and processing.