The walnut farmers and traders in Kashmir are worried about the decline in prices of Kashmiri walnut due to large imports from California and Chile.
According to traders, Rs 800 crore industry is in deep crisis with prices falling drastically due to large imports of California and Chile produced walnuts.
"Kashmiri walnuts producers and traders are suffering badly and Centre and state governments are watching as mute spectators. Walnuts grown in Kashmir particularly Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Kupwara, Baramulla and
Bandipora are purely organic, as no fertilizer or pesticide was used in the walnut. As of high demand for organic foods across India, our walnuts should have fetched us way more than they do now, but customers in Indian markets are preferring walnuts and kernels imported from California and Chile due to their good colour though their walnuts and kernels are in-organic and inferior in quality but they have very good colour and packaging which is deceiving customers in Indian markets" said Sajad Nassaruallah Khan, a walnut trader from Halmatpora area of Kupwara district.
"Last year the high quality walnut kernels were sold in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennei Markets at the rate of Rs 1200 to Rs 1500 per kilogram but this year the rates have come down to Rs 700 to Rs 800 per kg in the same markets due to imports from international markets," Khan added.
"Similarly, the low quality kernel is priced between Rs 800 to Rs 900 a kg last year, while this season they fetched just Rs 300 to Rs 400 a kg."
Large quantity of import of walnuts in Indian markets from foreign countries is the only reason for drastic drop in the prices of Kashmiri walnut.
"Imports of walnut from California and Chile has hit our business very badly. We are facing losses.
The prices have come down so much so that we could not even recover our costs," said the walnut traders in Kupwara.
"California walnuts have flooded Indian market and are priced at much lesser rate. These walnut kernels are better packaged and whiter in colour. They have grabbed the Indian market."
Traders also rued that GST at the rate of 5% is also an added burden on the stakeholders of walnut which should be exempted.
"Walnut traders should be exempted from the GST and imports of walnut from foreign countries should be immediately banned," demanded the walnut traders.