The absence of scientific intervention and stiff competition from 'cheap' imported varieties has hit Kashmir's walnut industry badly. Growers are looking for alternative crops - like apples - to earn a livelihood.
According to official figures, India produced 282,000 tons of walnuts in 2021-22 with J&K accounting for around 92 per cent of the produce. Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama districts are the leading producers of walnuts in Kashmir. Currently, Kashmiri walnuts are being sold at throw-away prices by the farmers with the "hugely under-invoiced" nuts from China, California, Chile, Turkey and Netherlands flooding the markets.
According to Haji Bahadur Khan, President of the Dry Fruit Association of Kashmir, the federal government's move to impose a 100 per cent import duty on walnuts has failed to protect small, local farmers in Kashmir from unfair pricing by big international growers.
"While the prevailing international rate of walnuts is around US$ 3.80 per kg, the ‘import mafia’ in India procures the dry fruit at US$ 1.30 per kg, which saves import duty on the remaining US$ 2.50 per kg. This hurts local farmers who are forced to sell their produce at cheap rates."