Srinagar, Nov 30: The import of Walnuts from different countries especially from California and Chile into the Asian market has dented the local walnut industry badly.
Kashmir used to be the largest exporter of walnuts in India, but with time, the production depleted – the markets across India and in other Asian countries are now flooded with walnuts from countries like California and Chile.
The locals associated with the industry said that despite inorganic in nature, the walnuts from California and Chile are preferred in Asian markets because of their stylish packaging.
India stands eighth in walnut production in the world with over 90 per cent of its share coming from Kashmir. The Valley produces about 60,000 tonnes from an area of 63,000 hectares.
Aijaz Ahmad, a dealer from Srinagar, said that it was during 2014 floods, when produce from Kashmir didn’t reach Asian markets on time, thus compelling dry fruit dealers to look for an alternative, which ultimately led them to countries like California and Chile.
“Last year due to clampdown after the abrogation of article 370, dealers after losing contacts with valley-based growers once again bought the walnuts from California and Chile causing huge losses to the local industry,” he said.
Many growers and dealers said there are many reasons, why the walnut industry is on the decline.
“There was a great demand for Kashmiri walnut all over the World. However, the decrease in production with each passing day forced dealers outside Jammu and Kashmir to look for an alternative,” they said.
“The main reason,” growers said, ” for the decrease in production, is a shortage of quality planting, poor orchard management and long gestation period.”
A typical walnut tree takes around two decades to fetch the first crop.
“There is a need to bring more areas under walnut cultivation with high yielding varieties. Sick orchards need to be rejuvenated. Encourage fresh walnut plantation like of the Apple plantation so that our products will be of good quality,” Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, who is associated with the business for the last three decades, said. “Moreover, there is a need for modern grading, packing houses are to be established near the farms. Farmers need technical assistance right from planting to harvesting.”
The second challenge, growers said, is that harvest methods used by farmers are primitive, “which results in reduced productivity.”
“Third challenge is that there is a lack of export oriented policies, due to which many people associated with this trade have opted for other businesses,” they said.
“Kashmir walnut is organic in nature as no fertilizers or sprays are used on plants. It is high in nutrients with immense health benefits. Given the proper infrastructure followed by a comprehensive export policy, our walnuts can do wonders in the world market,” they said. (KNO)