The wholesale prices of walnuts and almonds have shot up 50% and 20% over the last year because of supply constraints from Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The prices are likely to increase further as festive demand will pick up in the coming weeks,” said Varun Mehta, owner of New Mahajan Store, a dry fruit retailer in Amritsar.
The demand for dry fruits has been rising in double digits in the recent years. India imports dates, almonds and walnuts from Afghanistan that are routed through Pakistan. The import includes California’s almond and walnut which, too, cross the Attari-Wagah border.
Imports began to slow down since India raised duty on Pakistani goods following the Pulwama terror attack in February. The situation worsened since Pakistan stopped all border trade with India last week. “Islamabad’s move to halt border trade was in reaction to the revoking of Article 370 by the Indian government,” said a senior government official, refusing to be identified. No consignment has reached India since last week.
“The dry fruit trade needs to resume from Afghanistan as Pakistan is a transit state and, as per the WTO protocol, trade needs to be given passage by transit states,” Deepak Kapoor, chief operating officer at Gorish Chander Kapoor & Co, a Delhi-based dry fruit trader, said.
Importers in Amritsar see no solution in the short term. “We suffered heavy losses as several consignments were stranded midway after India slapped 200% duty on imports from Pakistan in February. The imports were stalled completely since Pakistan suspended trade last week,” a local importer said. “Almond prices are likely to rise further in the coming weeks once the existing stock of retailers gets depleted and imports from Pakistan continue to remain suspended,” said the owner of Anil Kumar Vishal Kumar, a Delhi-based dry fruit retailer. The famous Afghani almonds are priced at ₹3,000 per kilogram in the wholesale market. Dry fruit retailers feel that the consignments will be routed through Dubai and by air. “It will increase the cost further,” an Amritsar-based importer said.