The import of cheaper imported walnuts from countries such as China, Turkey, and the United States is threatening the sale of Kashmiri walnuts within the country, something that is certain to hurt the walnut traders in the Valley. This has created the urgent need for government intervention. The walnut traders are rightly upset about the state of affairs. The core issue lies in the price differential between Kashmiri walnuts and those from other countries. Walnuts cultivated in Kashmir are, unfortunately, more expensive to produce due to various factors, such as the high cost of labor and a lack of irrigation facilities. This cost disparity has allowed cheaper foreign walnuts to flood the Indian market, posing a significant challenge to the local producers.
Another impediment to the Kashmiri walnut trade is that unlike their foreign counterparts, Kashmiri walnuts lack the organic label, limiting their export potential, especially to markets like the European Union. This certification gap further restricts the reach of Kashmiri walnuts, undermining the industry’s competitiveness on the global stage.
However, the threat from the imports is not just limited to the walnut. In recent years, the Valley’s vaunted apple industry has also been hit hard by the foreign imports. Earlier in July, the reduction of import duty on Washington apples from 70 percent to 50 percent came as a major blow to the apple industry in the Valley. The decision is likely to have a major impact on apple growers and traders in the region, who are already struggling to cope with the challenges of the past few years.
The apple industry is the backbone of the Kashmir’s economy, and it provides employment to millions of people. Currently, five lakh families (around 25 lakh people) in the state are practicing horticulture. Apple occupies around 40 percent of the total area under fruit and accounts for 90 percent of the total production of fruits in the state.
The reduction in import duty will make it much more difficult for local apple growers to compete with imported apples. The Washington apples are of high quality and are often sold at a lower price than local apples. This will make it difficult for consumers to choose local apples, and it will lead to a decline in demand for local apples.
Already, the growing costs of pesticides and transportation have reduced considerably the returns from exports. And if the sector suffers major losses because of the low-priced imported apples, it would not only affect the apple farmers but also the economy as a whole. The existing state of affairs is thus grim news for the region. This is the time for the UT government to step in and urge the central government to ensure, at least, a level playing field for Kashmiri fruit and nuts, if it can’t raise duties on the imported fruit.
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