SRINAGAR: Despite being high in produce, Kashmir’s walnut is gasping for breath and survival as an intrusion of the Californian walnut breed in Indian cities have cast a shadow on the Valley’s indigenous walnut produce and brought down its price.
Another reason which has left the walnut growers of Kashmir worried is climate change, population expansion, and the imposition of GST and VAT.
Quoting official figures the news agency KNO reported that India produced 2.82 lakh tons of walnuts in 2021-22 with J&K accounting for around 92 per cent of the produce. Anantnag and Kupwara are the leading producers of walnuts in Kashmir.
The year wise-walnut production in Kashmir states, 190,451 MTs in 2017-2018, 198,431 MT in 2018-2019, 180,973 MT in 2019-2020, 177,070 MT in 2020-2021 and 182,659 in 2021-2022.
Walnut cultivation continues to shrink steadily from 47,004 hectares in 2017-18, 46,118 hectares in 2018-2019, 46,175 hectares in 2019-2020, 46,134 hectares in 2020-2021 and 46,197 hectares in 2021-2022.
The absence of scientific intervention and many other factors hit Kashmir’s walnut industry badly with growers looking for alternative crops like apple plantations to earn a livelihood.
Director Horticulture Ghulam Rasool Mir said that 13 nurseries of high density walnut trees will be established this year in Kashmir. “There is a subsidy of 7.5 lakh per hectare for producing walnuts. We are also creating a mass awareness to raise the export figure,” he said. “We are reaching out to walnut growers across the Valley and every step to restore the glory of Kashmiri walnuts are being taken.”
Akhtar Hussain Malik, a noted Botanist at Kashmir University told KNO that there are multiple reasons responsible for declining demand, and quality of Kashmiri walnuts.
“Intrusion of Californian walnuts in Indian cities and their less price has cast a shadow on Kashmir’s walnut produce. The price of walnuts from Kashmir have significantly dipped as Californian walnuts are sold in Indian markets,” Malik said, besides other reasons that include Climate change, population explosion and drought like conditions.
President dry-fruit growers association Kashmir, Bahadur Khan said that imposition of Goods and Services Tax/ VAT has taken a serious toll on walnut import in Kashmir.
“The Goods and Services Tax (GST) announced by the Union government also spelled problems for Kashmir’s walnut growers. In July 2017, walnuts were first put under the 12 percent tax slab but later added 5 percent bracket after a show of strong resentment by growers,” he said.
Khan said that there are three varieties of walnuts that grow in Kashmir. “These are locally called Wonth, Kagazi, and Burzul. The Wonth is a hard nut to crack. It is mostly sold locally, and is used for its oil. The Kagzi is a larger-size walnut with a thin outer shell. The Burzul is a medium-size variety and all are top quality walnuts,” he said, adding that there is a need for market intervention scheme to save walnut industry from sinking.