Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Walnut Industry Takes a Hit as Global Economy Slows Down

Bilal reports on how a drop in demand has hit the local industry

(Mr. Bilal Hussain, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar. He went to the CASET Experimental High School, and the S.P. College, Srinagar. He has a Master's degree in Finance and Control (MFC) from the Kashmir University. He worked as a financial writer and analyst for a telecom start-up company before joining Greater Kashmir staff as a writer/sub-editor in 2007. His personal interests are reading, writing, and internet surfing.)

Valley walnut industry in dire straits

Srinagar: The global economic slowdown has taken a toll on the Valley walnut industry.

The traders here said the walnut exports had come down drastically in the wake of economic recession which had caused steep decline in the demand as well as the prices.

While maintaining that the economic meltdown was the main cause which has brought down the prices of walnut at the international market, president KCCI Dr Mubeen Shah said the demand too has gone down drastically.

President, Kashmir Chamber of Food Processing Industry (KCOFI), Dr Zain-ul-Abidin said the Rs 150 crore walnut industry was presently passing through troubled times.

“Before the recession, US used to export its walnut produce to selected markets like Japan and other countries, besides catering to its local demand of over 65 per cent of its production,” he said.

Abidin said the domestic demand in America has come down from 65 to 10 per cent only leaving the country with huge stocks. “Now with such huge stocks the US has encroached upon the markets which were actually been catered to by India and China,” he said.

He said since in India, it was Kashmir only that produced the walnut therefore it had become the victim.

“US penetration in these markets has increased to a greater extent,” he added.
Companies in the US used to sell walnut at 3.8 dollar per pound and now the same is being sold at 1.8 dollar. China has absorbed the shock as they have the much needed capacity,” he said.

According to Abidin in 2008 traders from Kashmir have exported less than 50 per of walnut as compared to the last year exports.

He demanded that there should be an increase in export oriented incentives provided by the government. “The government should provide the all possible support to the traders, exporters and growers,” he adds.

Experts in the trade believe that the lack of demand from European Union, who are buying over 70 per cent of India’s walnut export has affected the exports from Kashmir.

Traditionally the USA, which is the 2nd largest producer of walnuts in the world past year reduced its prices by over 55 per cent bringing its prices even under the Indian price.

Experts said due to the shortage of US dollar funds, exporters were not given dollar denominated credit during the peak procurement season Sept-Nov 2008.

They said the VAT refunds of walnut exporters were not released by the state government thus seriously impacting the cash flow of exporters.

Many exporters here said that buyers were seeking discounts and re-negotiation of contracts or invoices assigning poor off-take in their country as the reason for their action.

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