In this bustling village on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, dozens of walnut kernel traders are a worried a lot these days due to falling prices this year.
Traders said the prices had decreased by at least half compared to last year after India allowed imports from other countries, including the US, China and West Asia. The J&K Government said it was a serious issue and it would take it up with the Central Government.
“We have the best quality walnut as it is organic. That was the reason we had high demand of this dry fruit,” said Mohammad Amin Chalkoo, president of the Dry Fruit Association Uri.
“Last year, the best quality of walnut kernel used to be sold for between Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,150 per kg. This time, the price has reduced to almost half,” Chalkoo said.
“This year, we have been selling the same quality for between Rs 600 and Rs 650 per kg. We are really worried as low prices have badly hit growers, retailers and dealers,” he said.
He claimed that Laghama and Uri markets in the border town were exporting nearly 5 lakh kg of walnut kernels to Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of the country and they were the first to supply walnut kernels to markets in the season.
“Unlike other parts of the Valley, our walnut is ready by August due to weather conditions. We have all have been left high and dry this year due to falling prices,” Chalkoo said.
While traders had been suffering immensely because of the falling prices, the government was doing nothing, said Shafqat Aziz, who had been exporting walnut kernels for the past eight years.
“The walnut industry is a major source of income for people of Uri and livelihood of thousands of people like growers, middlemen, labourers and traders is linked to it. We suspect that the Central Government is playing some mischief to weaken this industry,” said Aziz (30).
Walnut kernels are supplied from various districts across Kashmir like Kupwara and Baramulla in north Kashmir and Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian in south Kashmir.
The J&K Government said low prices were a cause of concern for the industry. “A lot of walnut kernels have been imported from the US and this is the reason for the falling prices,” said minister Abdul Rehman Veeri.
“Our government is concerned about the low prices and I have talked to the Chief Minister. This issue will be taken up with the Union Finance Ministry,” he told .
Officials said 60 per cent of the total walnut of Kashmir was transported to various parts of India and its production was 15,000 tonnes.