Srinagar, Oct 1: Thirty eight year old walnut trader Farooq Ahmad Bhat procured fruit in bulk this year to cash in on the festive season and earn some extra bucks to offset some business losses of last year.
Sensing huge demand this season, Bhat was waiting for opportune time to export fruit to different states. Come August 5, his dreams came crashing down as he could not contact potential customers due to the communication clampdown.
“This season traders haven’t placed many orders. I would now directly transport walnut kernel to Goa, Kolkata and Maharashtra. I am afraid that before our fruit could reach these markets, walnut from other countries might have occupied the shelves,” he said.
Like apples, the walnut industry of Kashmir too is in distress. Despite huge demand this festive season, the fruit hasn’t reached potential markets.
Growers claim that the communication clampdown has delayed export of Kashmiri walnuts and with the result imports from US and Chile have flooded domestic markets.
“We have come to know that outside state dealers have imported walnuts from Chile and US in huge quantity. Harvesting of walnuts began in the last week August. But the shipping couldn’t be done on time because contact was lost with the dealers,” Bhat said.
Kashmir produces 2.66 lakh metric tonnes of walnuts, which is over 90 per cent of the total production of the country. More than 89000 hectares of land is under the walnut cultivation in the valley.
Traders said imports have dealt a death blow to the walnut industry of Kashmir with prices falling sharply across the country. “Prices are too low comparing to kernels imported from other countries. Last month domestic walnut kernels were selling at Rs 700 to 750 per kilogram. Walnuts from US and Chile were selling at Rs 900 per kilogram,” said Muneer Ahmad, a dry fruit dealer from Srinagar.
Dry fruits including walnut and almonds have a huge demand on Dussehra and Diwali across the country. “We have missed the bus for Dussehra. But there is still a month left for Diwali. We have started shipping walnuts to various markets of country. Hope we will earn some money,” said Mohammad Iqbal, a trader.