Walnut industry crisis
Post by RK News on Monday, October 10, 2022
A report published in Rising Kashmir Sunday on traders facing losses due to the sharp slump in rates of walnut kernels this season uncovers the challenges faced by the Kashmir’s walnut industry. The walnut industry has been an important contributor to the UT revenues both foreign exchange earnings and domestic revenues. This industry supports more than five lakh growers and hundreds of traders that deal in the commodity. Over the years, the industry has severely suffered due to falling rates, weak demand and imports from Afghanistan, China, Chile and California. Also, domestic consumption has suffered due to the low spending from consumers in other Indian states. The major consumers of the pesticide free walnut have been the European and Gulf markets. With Californian walnut flooding the European and the Gulf markets, the demand for Kashmir walnut has dwindled almost to zero. This has directly hit the rates of the walnut and its kernel. One of the traders said that one kilogram of walnut kernel is being sold at Rs 650-700 which was earlier sold at Rs 1300 per kilogram and this is a significant reduction in price by any measure. The dealers and walnut processing unit holders are the worst sufferers in this carnage that is not of their making. According to the Horticulture Department of Jammu and Kashmir, walnut production has gone down from 2.22 lakh metric tons in 2010-11 to 1.80 lakh metric tons in 2019-20, a decline of 19 percent over nine years. Now given these facts, the obvious questions that emerge are: why has the sector not been accorded the status it deserves? Have any measures been initiated to tackle the commodity risk associated with the commodity? Has any working group or committee been formed to study the sector and most important of all is the government playing its regulatory role for improvement of the sector? Now under the given state of affairs where lies the solution, rather what becomes evident is that the sector needs both the short term and long term measures to get it back on track. The first is the market development effort on the part of government as the producers presently are left to the mercy of the buyers in Jammu and other states of India and command price to the seller. It is rather surprising that a buyer commands the price rather the other way round. Experts are of the opinion that systematic market development has to be a priority in terms of having the walnut mandi in Srinagar rather than in Jammu and Delhi. Secondly, there has to be a direct link between the buyer and a seller as this will reduce the cost of intermediary transaction which presently is on a higher scale. Creating a network of state of art mandis with support facilities including financial, logistics, and communication for long term viability of this sector has to be undertaken in right earnest. The government can also look at options like transportation subsidy, educating the growers and introduction of market intervention scheme as and when the sector suffers from external downturns.