Kashmir walnut industry in the soup

The walnut industry of Kashmir, a major revenue generator and job provider, is in a shambles in this district mainly due to “government’s lackadaisical approach.”

People associated with this trade accuse the government of making no efforts to create infrastructure essential for the survival and growth of this industry.

President, Jammu and Kashmir Walnut Growers’ and Dealers’ Association, Haji Bahadur Khan said, “There is total lack of infrastructure in this industry. We don’t have full-fledged mandis, dumping facilities, and processing and packaging units in most of the walnut producing districts of the Valley.”

“It needs a lot of money to establish infrastructure for processing of walnuts and walnut kernels. Obviously, the growers cannot afford it. Besides, they are scattered across different districts therefore cannot set up the infrastructure at one place,” Khan said.

He alleged that banks are not ready to give the soft loans to growers and walnut dealers and “there is no intervention by Horticulture department to mitigate the problems of people associated with this industry”

“After the apple, walnut is the major source of income for thousands of families in the Kashmir valley. But due to apathetic attitude of the state and the centre governments, this important segment of our economy is in a shambles.”

Khan said the diseases and frequent hailstorms are badly affecting the quality, colour and production of the fruit as a result of which “the export of walnut is facing severe threat.”

The growers said their income from walnuts was declining. “It is unfortunate that most of the districts in the Valley lack mandis, packing and grading units, and other facilities, as a result of the growers and the dealers have to do rely on manual operations which consumes a lot of time and labour,” they said.

“Due to lack proper dumping facilities growers and dealers lay the kernels in the open where they are exposed to dust, rains and diseases which badly affect their quality and the colour,” the growers said.

Abdul Rashid, a walnut orchard owner, said, “There is huge increase in freight rates and we are being charged income tax and additional dumping charges in Ludihana, Amratsar, Delhi, Mumbai and other cities.”

“Lack of good transport facilities has added to our problems as the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the lifeline of Kashmir, gets blocked due to landslides or snowfall in the peak season. The kernel stocks become the easy target of diseases .”

“There is need of a walnut mission in Kashmir on the patterns of saffron mission. The growers need to be encouraged to extend the area under high yielding quality walnut cultivation,” Khan suggested.