There is an immediate need of intervention from the government for this indigenous valuable resource to flourish in Kashmir
The walnuts of Kashmir are known for their superior quality and taste. They are locally known as ‘akhrot’ or ‘doon’. Being organic in nature, the demand for Kashmiri walnuts in both domestic and international markets is very high. However, the production of these walnuts is decreasing every year. In the year 2013-14, walnuts worth Rs 1043 crore were exported from Kashmir. This decreased to just Rs 341 crore in 2017-18.
Kashmir enjoys the status of being the major contributor to total walnut production in the country. More than 90% of the country’s walnut production comes from Kashmir. In Kashmir walnuts are grown in Kupwara, Shopian, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar, Anantnag, and other hilly areas. There are three varieties of walnuts grown 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 and with a thin outer shell. The Burzul is a medium-size variety.
Walnuts grown in Kashmir are organic, as no sprays and fertilisers are used. These walnuts have tremendous health benefits. Their kernels are rich in Omega-3 fatty acid, which may prevent heart disease and cancer. Nut oil prepared from walnut nuts is beneficial for women suffering from menstrual dysfunction. This industry also provides employment to lakhs of people in Kashmir.
People in Kashmir associated with the walnut industry are facing a lot of issues at every stage, from planting and harvesting to marketing. There are many factors responsible for this. There is shortage of quality plant material, poor orchard management, and long gestation period. Farmers are still using traditional methods. There is lack of infrastructure like transport, power supply, roads, mandis, and packaging and processing facilities. The post-harvesting methods used by farmers are primitive, resulting in reduced output of the crop. Also, due to lack of export-oriented policies, walnut exports have not grown much over the years.
As walnut production in Kashmir is decreasing by the day, we need to bring more area under cultivation of high-yielding varieties/strains, and at the same time rejuvenate old orchards, develop cost-effective technologies, and improve facilities for processing. The government has taken some steps to secure livelihood of the people associated with this industry but there is an immediate need of further intervention from the government so that the valuable walnut industry will flourish in Kashmir.
The writer is studying for a master’s in Forestry at Faculty of Forestry, SKUAST-K. [email protected]