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Women in India pay the price for cashew nut demand as vegan diets rise

Women who shell cashew nuts for as little as £2 a day are regularly left with agonising acid burns while trying to meet British demands for the snack, a new report has found.

As vegetarian and vegan diets increase in the UK – whether for health, environmental or animal rights reasons – shoppers are said to be hoovering up nuts, eating 17,000 tonnes in 2016, 35 per cent up on 2012.

But according to the Daily Mail, there is a human cost to producing the millions of cashews needed, which are predominantly shelled by hand in India, Brazil, Mozambique and Vietnam.

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. The youngest girl at the unit: Suganthi Ramalingami, 13. She is taking time off school to shell cashews

The youngest nut sheller is Suganthi Ramalingami, just 13, who has taken time off school to work (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. The hands of Yashoda Arumurugan, 48. Some of her skin is torn from cashew acid. She wears a glove on one hand to protect from the cashew acid and uses ash from her fireplace at home. She has just had a 15-day break from shelling cashews, so most of her burns have healed. But despite these protections, they will return

Some of the women shelling cashews choose not to wear gloves as they slow down their work (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. Another cashew sheller in the shelling unit

The workers are paid by the kilo, but some only make around £2.15 a day (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. Yashoda Arumurugan, 48, shells cashews in a processing unit in the village of Pudhukuppam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu

Some of the women shelling cashews choose not to wear gloves as they slow down their work (Picture: Emily Clark)

Journalist Emily Clark visited a cashew nut processor in southern India where shellers reported painful injuries caused by cardol and anacardic acids that lie between the two layers of hard shell on a cashew nut.

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Some 500,000 people work in Indias cashew nut industry – nearly all women – who are paid as little as £2 a day for the arduous labour with no contracts, no guarantee of steady income and no pension or holiday pay.

Many of the women were not given gloves and those that were chose not to wear them as it slowed their work down – they are paid by volume.

One nut sheller, Pushpa Gandhi, 30, told the newspaper she is covered in scars from her work shelling cashews but makes just 200 rupees a day, or £2.15.

Today when we go home and wash, we will see the boils on our skin. It takes about a week for them to heal. But as the old ones heal, new ones keep coming, she said.

The charity Traidcraft Exchange blames the poor working conditions on European buyers — including UK supermarkets — they claim aggressively push down prices, forcing cashew companies to hire cheap labour.

Nurse Uma Jayamurthi told the paper she was seeing increasing numbers of patients in the past year who have chopped off the top of a finger.

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. A teenager shelling cashews

Some 500,000 people – mostly women – work in the cashew nut industry in India (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. The hand of a 13 year old schoolgirl who had been taking time off school to shell cashews. The burns on her hand have hardened into dark blisters that peel off.

The burns on the workers hands harden into blisters that scar (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India. The hands of Yashoda Arumurugan, 48. She uses a pebble to crack the cashew shell, instead of a cutting machine

A local medical centre found around 40 per cent of patients come to see nurses with cashew related injuries (Picture: Emily Clark)

Daily Mail Femail - Cashew nut production in India.Women in saris shell cashews with cutting machines in Pudhukuppam, Tamil Nadu

Women shell cashews with cutting machines in southern India (Picture: Emily Clark)

Around 40 per cent of patients at the centre have cashew-related injuries. The main reason people come here is when the cashew acid goes under their nails and it gets infected, says Uma.

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But she adds they only come when the pain is unbearable, because of the cost.

The cashew boom in recent years is being put down to changing diets in the west.

In April 2018, a comparethemarket.com survey found that the number of vegans in the UK had risen to a whopping 3.5 million.

The Vegan Society reports a much lower figure of 600,000, which is far less significant, but still represents a four-fold rise in four years.

As well a protein-rich snack, many dairy-free cheeses loved by vegans are typically made using cashews, asRead More – Source

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