Srinagar: Kashmir's walnut, despite having a high yield, is struggling to survive due to the influx of California walnuts into Indian towns, which has diminished the value of Kashmir's native walnut produce and thrown a shadow over it.
President of the Kashmir Walnut Growers Association Haji Bahadur Khan said that the rates for walnuts had decreased by about 50 percent for the sixth year in a row.
“The local fruit is organic and contains more nutrients than Californian and Chinese kinds,” he said. “Both walnut kernels and shelled nuts are offered for throwaway prices in the market.”
Khan said that the price of a kernel per kg ranges from Rs 200 to Rs 800.
“A few years ago, this was going for Rs 1200 per kg,” he said. “Similarly, the rates of shelled walnut range from Rs 120 to Rs 200 per kg.” Khan said that in 2016-17, shelled walnut sold for between Rs 270 and Rs 400 per kg.
“We have been telling this to the authorities for years, but there hasn't been a workable answer,” he said. “Like apples, walnuts are a significant part of Kashmir's horticultural industry and we demand urgent action and attention of the government.”
Many dealers have stopped dealing in Kashmir walnuts due to the market's steady deterioration.
Due to the significant losses suffered over the past five years, a Kupwara-based walnut dealer Inam-ul-Haq has switched to sheep farming this year.
“Walnut business is quite challenging, particularly since there is little demand for it even in the domestic market. Several years ago, a sizable amount was exported. However, this transaction is no longer viable. I changed to breeding sheep," he said.
To combat the inflow of California, Chilean, and Chinese kinds, the J&K government has encouraged growers to move to high-density walnut farms after sensing difficulties.
Officials said that Kashmir was unable to produce a large number of walnuts as a result of which large quantities were being imported.
“Our walnuts are popular. However, we don't produce the kinds of products that consumers want to buy,” they said.
According to a Horticulture Department official, a certain kind that was in high demand was not produced in Kashmir in large quantities.
In terms of global walnut production, India comes in ninth.
Kashmir has more than 89,000 hectares of land dedicated to walnut farming.
According to official statistics, India produced 2.82 lakh tonnes of walnuts in 2021-2022 with almost 92 percent of the crop coming from J&K.
Leading Kashmiri walnut growers are in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district and north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
Kashmir region produced 190,451 MTs of walnuts in 2017-2018, 198,431 MTs in 2018, 180,973 MTs in 2019, 177,070 MTs in 2020-2021, and 182,659 MTs in 2021-2022.
From 47,004 hectares in 2017-18 to 46,118 hectares in 2018-2019, 46,175 hectares in 2019-2020 to 46,134 hectares in 2020-21, and 46,197 hectares in 2021-2022, walnut cultivation has continuously decreased.