Throughout 2022, food inflation has pushed the prices of several foodstuffs higher. With many households tightening their budgets, nuts were crossed off the snacking section on many shopping lists and replaced with cheaper alternatives. This happened despite most commercial nut prices not increasing significantly. In India, however, cashews are often used as an ingredient in many dishes, in addition to being a snack. Cashews are more and more being used to replace several other foodstuffs as a cooking ingredient, which have become comparatively more expensive than cashews.
Most of the world’s raw cashew nuts (RCN) pass through Vietnam where they are processed and exported as cashew kernels to other countries. In 2021, 75% of the globe’s RCN exports passed through Vietnam. This year, Vietnam’s cashew imports have decreased significantly. According to the Vietnam Cashew Association (VINACAS), Vietnam imported only 1.882 million mt of RCN from Jan-Oct 2022, a massive drop of 34% YoY. The decline in Vietnam’s imports is a reflection of weak demand from end-consumer countries. Consequently, Vietnam’s cashew kernel exports also fell, by 16% YoY, to only 381,474 mt in Jan-Oct 2022. The comparatively steeper drop in RCN imports, compared to kernel exports indicates that exporters aren’t looking to stock up on cashews, and are using leftover inventory from 2021. Traders are deciding not to keep large reserves, due to abundant supplies and weak demand globally.
Source: VINACAS, Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India
India has been a notable exception amidst the weak demand for cashews globally. In fact, India’s RCN imports soared by an incredible 70% YoY for the first 9 months of 2022. India imported 1.206 million mt of RCN over this period. This already broke all previous records for yearly imports, and there are still 3 more months to be reported. Increased imports come as a result of lower domestic production, but more importantly, as a result of soaring domestic consumption.
India’s domestic production is forecast at 675,000 mt RCN for 2022/23, down from the 738,000 mt produced in the 2021/22 season. This only accounts for a small increase in imports, and the prominent reason is an upsurge in domestic consumption. This is very different from consumption trends in other countries. Cashews are an important ingredient in Indian cooking, in addition to being consumed as a snack. Cashews are used in the preparation of sauces, curries, rice dishes, and desserts among others. Cashews are often used to add nutrients to dishes, particularly as a substitute for meat. Throughout 2022, India’s domestic consumption has increased as more cashews are being used as a substitute for other ingredients, which have become comparatively more expensive. This is in contrast to most other countries where cashews, which are primarily eaten as a snack, are being substituted by comparatively cheaper alternatives.
The world’s top cashew kernel importer, the US, has imported 10% less in the first 8 months of 2022, compared to the same period last year. US cashew kernel imports, from all sources, were only 104,541 mt from Jan-Aug 2022. The US has an abundant supply of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios available. These nuts are generally offered at lower retail prices than cashews, but they all compete predominantly in the snack market.
The world’s second and third largest cashew kernel importers, Germany and the Netherlands have also had lower imports in Jan-Aug 2022, than in the same period last year. Imports dropped by 3% and 6% respectively in these two countries.
Demand for cashews is expected to remain low in most countries over the short term, as economic uncertainty continues. However, food inflation has decreased over the last 6 months judging by the FAO’s Food Price Index. As this adds some wiggle room in households’ food budgets, global nut consumption could once again increase over the medium and long term.
*The Netherlands’ imports in August 2022 is an estimate
Source: ITC Trade Map