Srinagar: Sixty-five-year-old Ghulam Nabi of Uri was over the moon when he harvested a bumper walnut crop this season.
Expecting good returns this festive season, he even purchased walnuts from other growers. But little did he know that California and Chinese walnuts will flood Indian markets. Worried, he hired a warehouse to store walnuts till the market stabilizes.
“It has been two months now that I haven’t sold walnuts. The rates are too low. We are not even able to recover our cost,” he said.
This is not an isolated case. The majority of walnut growers in Kashmir are unable to sell their walnut produce given low demand in the ongoing festive season.
President Kashmir Walnut Growers Association Haji Bahadur Khan told The Kashmir Monitor that walnuts from foreign countries including USA, Chile, and Holland have had a cascading effect on the markets.
“The rates are too low. A kilogram of Kashmiri walnut kernel sells between Rs 200 and Rs 700 per kilogram. California or Chile walnut kernel sells at Rs 900 per kilogram. Before 2013, we would sell walnut kernel at Rs 1200 per kilogram,” he said.
Khan said almost 60 percent of the produce is currently lying unsold due to low demand.
“Taxes like GST and e-way has also hit the horticulture industry. We are being burdened with taxes which further escalate our losses,” he said.
Figures reveal that due to the flow of California and Chile walnuts, exports from Kashmir have declined by 300 percent from 2013 to 2015.
As per data quoted by the Department of Industries and Commerce in its Trade and Export Policy 2018-28, walnuts worth Rs 1,043 crore were exported from Kashmir in 2013-14. It dropped to Rs 341 crore in 2017-18.
India ranks eighth in walnut production in the world. Kashmir produces 2.66 lakh metric tonnes of walnuts, which is over 90 percent of the total production of the country. More than 89000 hectares of land is under the walnut cultivation in the valley
According to the Department of Horticulture, the kernels produced from Kashmiri walnuts are considered to be the best in the word.
An official from the horticulture department said they are working to promote Kashmir based organic walnuts to increase sales in the national and international markets.