Walnut Industry of Kashmir under threat

Kashmir is known as land of walnuts. The walnuts of Kashmir are known for their superior quality and taste. They are locally known as ‘akhrot’ or ‘doon’. Being organic in nature, demand of Kashmiri walnut in both domestic, and international markets increases. However, its production is decreasing every year. In the year 2013-14 walnuts worth Rs 1043 crore were exported from Kashmir, however, it decreased to Rs 341 crore in 2017-18. Kashmir enjoys its status as the major contributor of total walnut production in the country. Over 90% of the country’s walnut production comes from Kashmir. In Kashmir walnuts are grown in Kupwara, Shopian, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar, Anantnag, and other hilly areas. There are three varieties of walnuts grown in Kashmir. These are locally called wonth, Kagazi, and Burzul. The Wonth is a hard nut to crack. It is mostly sold locally, and used for oil extracting. The Kagzi is a better sized walnut and thin outer shell. The Burzul is a medium sized variety. Walnuts of Kashmir are demanded throughout the world, because of their quality and taste. The walnuts grown in Kashmir valley are considered organic, as no sprays and fertilizers are used. These walnuts have tremendous health benefits. Kernels are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, which may prevent heart disease and cancer. Nut oil prepared from walnut nuts is beneficial for women suffering from menstrual dysfunction. This industry also provides employment to lakhs of people in Kashmir. The people in Kashmir associated with industry are facing a lot of issues at every stage, from planting, harvesting to marketing. There are many factors responsible for it.
We need to bring more area under cultivation, by providing quality plant material (High yielding varieties /strains), rejuvenate old orchards, develop cost-effective technologies, and improve facilities for processing. Government has also taken steps to implement sound policies to avoid further losses, and secure livelihood of associated people. There is an immediate need of further intervention from the government so that the much needed walnut industry will flourish in Kashmir.
There is a shortage of quality plant material, poor orchard management, and long gestation period. Farmers are still using traditional methods. There is a lack of infrastructure like transport, power supply, roads, mandis, and packaging and processing facilities. The post harvesting methods used by the farmers are primitive, resulting in reduced productivity of the crop. Also, due to lack of export oriented policies, the exports have not grown much. The domestic, and international demand of Kashmiri walnut has been increasing over the years. As in Kashmir production is decreasing day-by-day. We need to bring more area under cultivation, by providing quality plant material (High yielding varieties /strains), rejuvenate old orchards, develop cost-effective technologies, and improve facilities for processing. Government has also taken steps to implement sound policies to avoid further losses, and secure livelihood of associated people. There is an immediate need of further intervention from the government so that the much needed walnut industry will flourish in Kashmir.
(The author is pursuing Masters degree in Forestry at Faculty of Forestry S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST-K Shalimar. Views are her own)

ruheejon47@gmail.com

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