J&K: Traders Concerned Over Reduction of Duty on Imported Apples, Walnut
Srinagar: The recent move by the Government of India to lift additional import duties on several American products, including apples, walnuts and almonds, has raised worries amongst Kashmiri farmers and traders.
The traders are saying that the decision should be reconsidered as it would impact the local produce, which has already been grappling with multiple challenges in the last few years.
Bashir Ahmad Bashir, president of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealer's Association and New Kashmir Fruit Association, told NewsClick that the development is a “matter of concern”.
“We have already witnessed back-to-back problems in the market since the last few years, and revoking import duties will only add to the burden of the farmers,” he said.
The development comes at a time when the harvesting season of apples, walnuts and almonds has already begun in the region. A walnut trader near Srinagar’s Boulevard Road said that the prices for the dry fruits have been good so far, but apprehensions remain.
“We are not looking at a bumper season this year, but the prices have been reasonable. It now depends as we move forward to the peak harvest season. A lot also depends on the market and smooth transportation,” he said.
The farmers in the region have been demanding heightened import duty on Washington apples for months, arguing that the imports will increase price competition for local produce and reduce market share despite Kashmiri apples being considered to be of good quality.
According to the Agriculture Production Department (Horticulture), J&K, the Horticulture sector contributes about 6-7% to the GSDP and generates about 8.50 crore man-days annually. The apple, walnut and almonds are grown over 2,50,000 Ha of land, with the government aiming to scale up the production in the coming years.
The import duties on American almonds, apples and walnuts were carried out by the Ministry of Finance ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the G20 summit in New Delhi. According to the ministry's circular, the duty on the apple reportedly has been reduced from 35% to 15%.
Following the reports, the president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, said it will have devastating results for the growers in the region on Monday.
“GOI's decision to remove additional duties on apples, walnuts and almonds will have a devastating effect on local growers in J&K already grappling with huge losses post-2019. Hope PMO India reconsiders,” Mufti wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The farmers in Kashmir have been marred by several issues, including dwindling prices, increased input costs and inadequate infrastructure. Last year, the farmers suffered huge losses after the movement of apple-laden trucks on the National Highway faced roadblocks.
However, this year, the administration has been stating that the movement of fruit-laden trucks and the general public will be allowed without hassle along the Srinagar-Jammu highway as the security scenario has improved, according to the authorities.
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