After almonds, import of walnuts from California and other parts of America into Indian market has badly hit the walnut industry of Kashmir, with stakeholders blaming central government for allowing “free flow” of import.
“It is very unfortunate that Union Agriculture Ministry has permitted imports of walnuts from California early this year probably to weaken the Kashmir walnuts industry,” the walnut growers said.
“The Californian walnuts being imported into India have badly hit the prospectus of the growth of Kashmir walnut industry,” the growers said.
They said the import of the fruit from California “will badly affect the growers, retailers and whole sellers.”
The California Walnut Commission representing over 4,600 growers in the region “has charted aggressive plans to hamper the growth of Kashmir walnut industry and to tap the rising demand for the dry fruit in India,” experts said.
“To tap the growing walnut market in India, the rates of Californian walnuts have been lowered and brought at par with Kashmiri walnuts,” they said.
“Due to import from California, the walnut kernels supplied by Kashmiri growers/traders from Kupwara, Baramulla, Pulwama, Islamabad and Shopian districts are decaying in various Indian mandis,” Haji Bahadur Khan, president dry fruit and walnut growers association Jammu and Kashmir, said.
“Some affluent traders in India have succeeded to get Californian walnut kernels under-valued for tax purposes and keep them available in domestic market in all seasons. Californian walnut has made inroads in Indian markets and it is posing a threat to Kashmiri walnuts,” Khan added.
Kashmiri walnuts and walnut kernels are bought by retailers and dealers in different cities of India. Besides, consumption in domestic markets, these walnuts are exported to UK, Egypt, the Netherlands, Germany and the US which earn India more than Rs 800 crore foreign exchange.
“This is going to result in loss of a huge foreign exchange to India. We demand ban on import of Californian walnuts,” the growers here said.
“We appeal MP, Mehbooba Mufti to intervene and take up the issue with the central government and agriculture ministry at an earliest so that Kashmir walnut industry is saved” Bahadur Khan said.
“Though there is no tax on walnut kernels in Jammu and Kashmir, once we supply them outside the state, they are charged at the rate of 12 per cent tax. We appeal government of India that Kashmiri walnuts kernels be made tax free outside the state as well,” the growers in Kupwara said.