The North Eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh has earned well deserved accolades in the last five years for its excellent agri-horticultural produce, thriving food processing sector and strides in organic farming and certification that has changed the fortunes of small and marginal farmers in the state.
As Arunachal is largely an agrarian economy, age-old practices (jhum cultivation) typical to the diverse physiographic and agro-climatic conditions determine the commercial cultivation of native fruits, medicinal and aromatic plants, spices, rice, millets, flowers and vegetables. Though the rice, millets, apple, ginger, cardamom, maize, kiwi and orange of Arunachal are in great demand in both domestic and international markets, the superior quality walnuts of Tawang has put it on the world map.
Tawang district, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful places on earth is bounded by Chinese Occupied Tibet to the north and Bhutan to the south-west with Se La Pass on its border. The humid subtropical climate with high rainfall in the monsoon and low temperature during the winter months is conducive for the cultivation of walnuts.
Tawang walnut also marketed as Arunachal walnut is cultivated in the districts of Tawang, West Kameng and Lower Subansiri. Arunachal Pradesh is the third largest producer of walnuts in India and one of the four states namely Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that produce export quality walnuts. India has exported 1,069.70 MT of walnuts worth Rs 29.97 crores to over 40 countries like Germany, UK, USA, UAE, New Zealand, France, Netherlands and others last year.
It is estimated that over 35,000 hectares of land are under walnut cultivation in Tawang alone. ICAR-IIHR (Indian Institute of Horticultural Research) is working in tandem with ICAR-CITH (Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture) Srinagar to use scientific methods to increase the productivity of walnuts per hectare and make Arunachal the largest producer in India. CITH has identified four high-yielding, high-quality kernel walnut varieties that have tremendous potential.
Tawang walnut is grown completely in the organic manner and contains a significant amount of omega-3 Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and is known to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Walnuts are used in the food, pharmaceutical and cottage industries.
Scientific technology and cluster-based processing units will go a long way to enrich the rural economy, generate employment and open the state up for more investment from foreign countries and research centres to increase exports.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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