Having an impressive crop this season, the California’s walnut farmers are expecting a significant growth in exports of the nuts to India considering greater awareness in the country about its health benefits.
In the last one year, a whopping nine million in-shell pounds of walnuts worth USD 20 million were exported to India and California Walnuts Commission, an umbrella body of the farmers, was confident of at least 20-30 per cent growth in the volume of supplies to the fast growing economy.
California walnuts account for 99 per cent of the commercial US supply and 71 per cent of world trade, according to California Walnut Commission (CWC) figures.
“We see the Indian market growing nearly double each year. We hope to see a significant growth of the market in the next fives years,” Jennifer Williams, a top executive at the CWC, said.
She said Indian market has “extreme potential” with more and more middle class and upper middle class Indians becoming health conscious.
“India is a major market for us. We are looking at a steady and sustainable growth of the Indian market,” she told a group of Indian reporters.
At the same time, Williams added that reduction in current duties will help in enhancing supplies of California Walnuts.
“Last year we shipped 9 million in-shells pounds. We are confident of at least 20-25 per cent growth in supplies in the next one year. We are educating the consumers about health benefits of walnut consumption,” she said.
The other major export markets for California Walnuts are Germany, China, South Korea, Turkey and Japan.
India’s domestic production of walnuts range from 30,000 to 35,000 tonnes per year out of which more than 50 per cent is exported.
The CWC was aiming at enhanced supplies considering that Indian bakery, confectionery and ice cream industries were keen to have more walnuts in their products.
The California walnut industry is made up of more than 4,000 walnut growers and 93 walnut processors.
California has approximately 300,000 walnut bearing acres and experts say walnut trees bear fruit 5 to 7 years after planting and can produce walnuts for as long as a century.
The Central Valley, one of California’s most diverse and richly fertile regions of the state, is home to most of the walnut orchards.
There are more than 30 varieties of commercially produced walnuts, all hybrids of the English or Persian walnut.
Varieties are developed for various characteristics such as early harvest, late harvest, thick shell, thin shell, high walnut meat content, pest tolerance, etc.
Approximately 35 per cent of walnut exports are shelled and 65 per cent are exported in-shell. In the US market, approximately 95 per cent of shipments are shelled walnuts, while only 5 per cent remain inshell.