In Jammu and Kashmir, agriculture particularly the horticulture sector is the key sector for employment and income generation because large-scale industrialization is not ecologically desirable and the infrastructure is too poor to attract industries. Therefore, the horticulture sector continues to remain the important sector for socio-economic development of the people. With serious constraints on area expansion and declining scope of other sources of growth of agriculture output the diversification of agriculture towards non-food grains and high-value cash crops including fruits and vegetables, compatible with the comparative advantage of the region is suggested as a viable solution.
Walnut is the most important sub-sector of horticulture. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the main walnut producing zone. It is the extensively grown in Jammu and Kashmir after apple cultivation (Qammer & Baba, 2018). All the walnuts exported by India are produced in the state. Persian walnut (Juglans Regia), covering about 63000 ha of the region is the most commercially important species with an annual production of 60000 tons and a farm value of 20 million Indian Rupees. This sector has the potential of fetching 500 crore foreign exchange earnings, provided technological gap is minimized and is further refined to international standards (Directorate of Horticulture, Kashmir).
If utilized on potential, walnut can make Jammu and Kashmir number one on the world map as well. The production of walnut has a noticeable poverty-reducing impact in rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir. In rural areas of the region , many families are totally dependent upon the walnut cultivation but due to the existence of a chain of intermediaries, the producers are not getting their due prices because these intermediaries don’t disclose actual market price to the walnut cultivators.
Agricultural policy makers observe middleman as a speculator who takes away a larger percentage of profit and benefits from small landholders thus leaving them with little incomes (Ellis, 1996). Traders and middlemen cheat farmers because they lack knowledge about market prices and overall market conditions. They take advantage of their poor conditions, seasonal shortages of cash, lack of proper storage and transport facilities in villages that contribute to their weak bargaining power ascending from illiteracy and low social status (Thapa et al., 1995; Lantican, 1997; Banskota & Sharma, 1999; Shrestha & Shrestha, 2000; Khushk, 2001). Intermediaries-The main Villain is the root cause of the sorrows of walnut cultivators. They grab maximum benefit in walnut marketing. Once intermediaries are abolished all things will turn favorable for both walnut producers as well as consumers and end users.
In Jammu and Kashmir , the state sector is dominant and is working beyond its saturation level. The state should shift its focus and resources towards other important sectors which have huge potential. It is not a bad idea at all to shift focus towards the walnut sector for it will augment the income of the state, create huge foreign exchange reserves, alleviate poverty, generate huge employment and what not. Thus, developing walnut sector by focusing on its prospects, challenges and problems will reduce the burden of the service sector which is very important from the policy point of view.
Marketing in Jammu and Kashmir is very expensive because of various shortcomings like inadequate infrastructure for storage facilities, unavailability of required transport facilities, and mismanagement during grading, packaging, handling and transportation. In the same way, the marketing of walnut in our state in particular is characterized by insufficient and inefficient transportation infrastructure, poor market intelligence and oligopolistic market structures. Markets if not integrated, the prices signals will be distorted, thus resulting into inefficient allocation of resources and also reduced farm gate prices.
Since the information on prices on different markets is important for the producer, buyer, and the ultimate consumer to take profit-oriented marketing decisions, therefore, the research studies in our state should also be directed to empirically estimate the degree of integration of various markets of walnut in order to help the various stakeholders to take efficient decisions with regard to the allocation of resources and marketing. The small growers usually sell their produce to local traders. This is largely because they want to avoid a large time lag between the selling of their produce and payment of receipts. Large walnut growers usually sell their produce through retailers, wholesalers, firms, and processors. Huge value addition takes place in the marketing of walnut if the processor obtains improved quality kernels either through a Dalal or local trader or directly from a grower. The net price received by walnut grower is higher when he sells kernels through processor in the efficient marketing channel rather than through lengthy chain of other intermediaries (Qammer & Baba, 2018). Marketing of walnuts create value addition for the export purposes if grower sells his produce through processors, retailers, wholesalers and firms.
In order to provide marketing competence for Agriculture produce, , in general and Horticulture ,, in particular , at the thresholds of the growers, the various platforms, schemes, and programmes have to be introduced by way of creating as many terminal fruit and vegetable markets as possible which are well-designed and useful in order to carry out the trade in these markets smoothly. Marketing and export of Kashmiri Walnut should be through an organization in order to control and improve marketing and walnut export prices. Furthermore, the functioning of these organizations is to be improved by providing proper marketing facilities, infrastructure, and competent team. Farmers should form an organization among themselves with the support of government and NGO’s so that they can ensure rational, judicious and fair information about the market state of affairs. Development of international walnut enterprises in major walnut exporting countries is an example of such a step in recent years. Same should be developed in our state. With the help of walnut organizations, who should be directed by the members of government and walnut experts and scientists, we may attain a harmonious system in production, packaging, distribution, and exports of walnut.
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