Govt mulls to introduce special walnut species in state

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government is mulling to grow special varieties of walnut trees in the state to prevent misuse of the fruit’s prized crop-producing species in furniture making.
In its new Agriculture Policy devised for implementation in near future, the government says it’s considering introduction of walnut’s “appropriate specifies” suited for furniture making—the sector that otherwise makes use of the timber recovered from fruit-yielding walnut trees.
“Walnut, which is one of the important dry fruits of the state, is at times victim of the greedy traders, who use the timber of the walnut for making furniture. Appropriate species of walnut suited to furniture making will be introduced,” reads the document.
Walnut is a traditional horticulture product of the Valley. Given that it is the only organically produced horticulture product of the state, walnut is presently the only fruit that is exported to various countries.  The demand of this product, sold as walnut kernel, is high in many European countries and the demand picks up during festival season.
As per the latest official figures, walnut is grown over 95, 622 hectares of land in the state with an estimated annual production of 2, 52, 033 metric tonne of dried walnut. Walnut’s per hectare production in the state is 2.64 metric tonne.
The timber recovered from walnut trees is also used for making furniture, which, decorated with hand-carved designs, is another famous product of the Valley. The official figures suggest that the export of wood carving products, which primarily uses walnut wood, was worth Rs 81.35 crore in the last fiscal.
Due to unavailability of non-fruit bearing trees, the furniture industry dealing with walnut is forced to illegally cut down the fruit yielding trees.
To prevent the misuse, the new species, as per the policy, will be multiplied in the “specific areas” so that the fruit bearing trees “are saved from exploitation/utilization for making furniture.”
For overall improvement of the horticulture sector, the policy proposes introduction of horticulture as a subject at the school level to generate awareness about the sector.
“Inclusion of horticulture as a subject in pre-matriculation /post-matriculation syllabus will be recommended to the concerned authorities of School Education Department, so as to create awareness in the young generation as well as eventual development of basic human resource,” says the document.
The state may also witness introduction of “farm schools” to offer diploma course in horticulture practices.
“Farm schools/institutions will be set up for providing short-term diploma/certificate courses in horticulture sector. The focus of these training programmes will be to educate youth, both educated and illiterate, in different components of fruit plant cultivation, post harvest handling and allied activities. SKUAST-Kashmir/Jammu will be approached to accord priority to this area,” the policy document mentions.