SRINAGAR: September, the beginning of autumn season, marks start of walnut-harvesting in Kashmir. In Srinagar, this time is considered very crucial for the people in general and harvesters in particular, as Srinagar is the main contributor to India’s walnut production. But the walnut-industry is facing a lot of problems and is presently on back-foot due to negligence of revenue officials who are allegedly supporting walnut mafia in one way or another. It is believed that hundreds of walnut trees were cut down by villagers for petty benefits while officials acted as mute spectators.Local people claimed that demand for walnut furniture in the market has increased manifold in recent years and elite-class prefers only walnut wood for wall-paneling, furniture etc. Planting more varieties and greater support by Government in terms of infrastructure and policies could help resolving the issues, said industry insiders.Globally, India stands eighth in terms of walnut production. In nation, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is major walnut-producer with annual output of around 2.66 lakh metric tons grown on 89,000 hectares, thereby contributing more than 98 percent of total walnut production. There was huge demand of Kashmiri walnuts, both in domestic and international markets but now as the production has fallen, Kashmiri walnuts are facing stiff competition from walnuts imported from California, Chile and other locations across the globe. Locally known as ‘Doen’, Kashmiri walnuts are organic as no sprays and fertilizers are used in cultivation process. Three varieties of walnuts are grown in Kashmiri viz Kagzi-a large nut with thin shell, Burzul-medium-sized nut and Wonth-hard to break and mainly used to extract oil.According to reports, walnuts are being sold for more than Rs 100 per Kg while kernels range in between Rs 250 to Rs 275 per Kg presently in outside Mandis, which represents an almost 30 per cent rate increase over the past year.Following COVID and increased awareness among consumers regarding goodness of walnuts, demand for Kashmiri walnuts has gone up within the country and even internationally. It is really alarming that walnut production in Jammu and Kashmir has been falling every year. With the intervention of Horticulture department, several farmers have switched from traditional farming to walnut farming. The people, associated with the walnut industry in Kashmir, said that they are facing a wide range of issues, right from planting of trees to marketing level. This year again the growers have little to smile as the crop continues to lose market share and production has been declining sharply. Growers said that dry fruit production and trade is an unorganised sector in J&K and there are middlemen who exploit growers. Traders and growers appealed to the LG’s Administration to intervene in the matter so that the walnut industry can be made as one of the best industry at national and international level.
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