Farmers blame California walnut imports, government apathy
Anantnag: The walnut traders and farmers in Kashmir are a worried about the thirty per cent in the prices despite the better quality of the walnut grown.
Walnuts grown in Kashmiri are purely organic, as no fertilizer or pesticide was used in the walnut farming.
“Given the market demand for organic foods across India, our walnuts should have fetched us way more than they do now,” Rameez, a walnut farmer from Sallar area of Anantnag district told Kashmir Reader.
Official records maintained by Planning and Marketing (P&M) wing of the horticulture department depict a steep decline in the prices. Last year, quality walnuts fetched the farmers around 350 rupees per kilogram; this year, the rates have come down to 170-190 rupees per kilogram.
“There is a decline of more than 30 per cent and we have every reason to be worried about this,” another farmer, Showkat, from Pulwama said.
While the farmers are unable to pinpoint the reasons, they can only speculate that an increased import of walnuts in India and apathy of the concerned department were the reasons.
“We have heard that California almonds are being imported in abundance across India, which might have had its effect on rates,” a farmer said.
Farmers say that the government had been planning to run an awareness campaign for recognition of Kashmiri walnuts to project them as an organic product.
“Leave alone a campaign, they have not even been able to get us an ‘organic’ certificate from New Delhi,” one farmer alleged.
The P&M wing of the horticulture department acknowledges the decline in prices. Deputy director of the department, Manzoor Ahmad Mir, said “pendency from last year’s produce”, which makes the crop this year bumper, was one main reason. He acknowledged that “walnuts from California have flooded the Indian market, which has also had a negative effect on prices of Kashmiri walnuts”.
He said that the department has been asking the government to either control the import of California walnuts or levy increased tax so that a balance is maintained.
Asked why the department has been complacent over running a campaign for Kashmiri walnuts, Mir said that a high level committee has been formulated to take care of the campaign. “It is headed by none other than the honorable Chief Minister,” he said.
“The Committee has met a few times and I hope some reforms will come to fore vis-à-vis the walnut industry of Kashmir,” Mir said. “I expect a mass campaign will be run across the country for marketing of Kashmiri walnuts.”