'King Of Nuts' From California To Challenge Kashmir Nuts?

18 October 2015

New Delhi: Kashmiri and Californian walnuts can co-exist in the booming Indian market with American growers of the healthy dry fruit eyeing it in a big way after exports to the traditionally-strong Chinese market dropped amid a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. 'We are excited about the Indian market and feel it holds great potential for our industry,' Chief Executive Officer of California Walnut Commission (CWC), Dennis A Balint, said. 'What is most encouraging is that India has a tradition of walnut consumption,' Balint, also Executive Director of California Walnut Board told PTI here. 'Shipments of California walnuts to India for the 2013-14 crop year, our first year with market access, was about 310,000 in-shell pounds and 42,000 pounds of kernels,' CWC's Assistant Marketing Director, International, Jennifer Williams said. Last year, the 2014-15 crop year saw shipment increase quite a bit with 5.2 million pounds of inshell walnuts going to India and 84,500 pounds of kernels. 'We feel the India market will continue to grow as the message of California quality spreads and the health messages continue gain popularity,' she said. 'Inshell exports of walnut to India have been significant,' CWC's Senior Marketing Director, International, Michelle McNeil said. At the same time, she said exports of shelled walnut to India was still small but had long term potential. Asked about concern expressed by Indian walnut growers on the entry of American walnut in the domestic market, McNeil said: 'there is scope for both as the market is huge.' She said the CWC's efforts are to make available to Indian consumers good quality California walnuts round-the-year. McNeil said the CWC was confident that the Indian bakery, confectionery and ice cream industries would readily accept Californian walnuts which were produced, processed and packed in state-of-the-art facilities in California. 'We know that the Indian consumer wants walnuts from California,' she said. 'We will promote the California brand, along with our reputation for food safety and reliability,' she said, adding that currently the CWC was working with doctors and nutritionists on the health benefits of consuming walnuts. The California walnut industry is made up of over 4,000 walnut growers and 93 walnut handlers-processors. Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Minister A R Veeri recently told PTI that the walnut sector in the state, the main producer in India, was facing problems because of the arrival of American kernels in the market. 'There is less import duty on those kernels so they are available in the market abundantly and people buy them as their rates are low. Those kernels are being packaged in such a way that they look of good quality, otherwise they do not taste like Kashmiri walnuts which are the best,' he said. 'We are hopeful of some change at the Central level. There should be an increase in the import duty of the American kernels. I have taken the matter up with the Chief Minister and he has also raised the issue with the Union Finance Minister.' In India, major processing facilities for shelling and packing walnuts are located in State of Jammu and Kashmir. 'We are hopeful of some steps being taken to save the Kashmiri walnut,' Veeri said.