India's appetite for California walnuts has boomed over the years, making it South Asia's largest consumer market of this American product, said a senior industry expert during the recent negotiations between New Delhi and Washington to settle their trade differences.
Trade tensions between India and the United States escalated after President Donald Trump, championing his 'America First' policy, complained on Twitter that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were "no longer acceptable" to his country.
India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including walnuts, almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration terminated its preferential trade privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
Pamela Graviet, the senior marketing director at the California Walnut Commission (CWC), said the appetite of Indians for walnuts shipped from California has grown significantly in the last few years.
"Five years ago we entered the Indian market, and we have grown tremendously. There wasn't a single California walnut in the market then, and today there are about 10,000 tonnes that come into India," Graviet stated.
"In South Asia, India has become the largest market for California Walnuts because most of South Asia is not aware what a walnut is. India is unique because it has a local production (from Kashmir) and people do know what a walnut is, while in many other countries they are clueless.”
She, however, noted that the importation dropped after India changed its tariff rate policy for imported walnuts over a year ago: "A year and a half ago, India changed the tariff rate for any imported walnut. Prior to that, the walnuts that were in shell would come into Indian market with a tariff rate of little over 30 per cent. Then there was a change in the base rate, that any walnuts in shell would come at a rate of 100 per cent. That slowed down the importation of walnuts not just from the US, but also from other countries that produce walnuts. So there's less of them coming into the country currently.”
Touching upon the ongoing trade tensions between India and the US, Graviet said they were hopeful that the negotiating teams will reach an agreement that would be beneficial for both the countries.