Srinagar: Famed Kashmiri walnuts are feeling the heat as Californian and Chilean varieties have consolidated their position in Indian markets.
Data accessed by The Kashmir Monitor revealed that 3,538 metric tonnes of Californian walnuts have been shipped to India this year.
This makes an uptick of more than 42 percent in the import of walnuts compared to the last year.
In 2022, 1,496 metric tonnes of walnuts were shipped to India from California.
Pertinently earlier in September this year, India formally removed retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. farm products including almonds and walnuts from California.
Apart from California, walnuts from Chile too are eating away the market of Kashmiri organic walnuts.
As per the figures from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Chile’s walnut export share has grown from 29.7 percent in FY2018 to 75.3 percent in FY23.
The growing imports of Californian and Chilean walnuts have dealt a killing blow to the Kashmiri walnut industry.
President Kashmir Walnut Growers Association Haji Bahadur Khan said imported varieties have hit the local industry very hard.
He said the rates of walnut kernels have plummeted by almost 50 percent this season.
“A high-quality walnut kernel, which we would sell at Rs 1200 per kilogram a decade before sells at Rs 1000 per kilogram now. Similarly, low-quality kernel would sell at Rs 300 per kilogram, which currently sells at Rs 150-250,” he said.
Khan said there was no cap on the quantity of imports of walnuts from California and Chile. “The heavy imports of walnuts from these countries began after the year 2016. There is no cap on the quantity of imports from these countries. Californian, Chinese, and Chille walnuts have invaded the entire markets in India,” he said.
Despite Khan’s assertion that Kashmiri walnuts are entirely organic, he said they could not compete with walnuts from Chile, China, or California. “Their (Californian) walnuts mostly belong to top-grade quality because of the use of pesticides and other sprays,” he said.
Following reduced demand, growers said they failed to get a good deal from dealers. “Earlier dealers would come from various districts to buy our walnuts. Now, there are just a few dealers left, who still are associated with this trade,” said Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a walnut grower.