On May 23, in a sudden and shocking move PM Modi’s Government increased tariff on walnuts and almonds exponentially – making these health nuts unaffordable for a population of 500 million middle class. This increase in tariff will make the price go upto Rs. 2,000 per kg limiting the consumption to rich and mighty of India.
Indians with deteriorating health profile and stagnant lifestyle need natural diet supplements, which provide healthy vegetarian alternatives for expecting females, lactating mothers, senior citizens, and Indian children. Almonds and walnuts have now become an inseparable part of the Indian diet and enormous efforts have gone into educating consumers about importance of healthful eating.
Nutrition research papers published in respected international journals have shown consuming health nuts like almonds as part of an overall healthy diet, improved a number of heart disease risk factors including curbing the onset of cardiovascular diseases. They help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. This is especially of pertinence as India has more than 50 million people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Almonds are a natural source of 15 essential nutrients and have been a part of Indian traditions rooted in history since Vedic era.
Similarly, it has long been known that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are strongly linked to improved cardiovascular health; while lower levels lead to increased rates of hypertension and risk of heart attack. Walnuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and are attributed with health benefits like lowering heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, all of which are alarmingly on the rise in the Indian population.
Production of almonds and walnuts has been scattered in state of Kashmir and have not been enough to support the soaring consumer demand. To fulfill the consumer demand and to ensure that quality products are available at affordable price businesses were left with no other option but to import produce to make the ends meet.
Upon enquiring with trade associations, Amit Lohani, Forum of Indian Food Importers said, “India is often titled as diabetes capital of world and cardiovascular diseases have been the leading cause of mortality in country, which is alarming. Both walnuts and almonds help stand against these two major lifestyle ailments and it is a crime for us to keep it out of reach of our growing middle class population.”
He was also quoted saying that Government should consider revoking increase in tariff on immediate basis and see that the idea of generating revenue should not be done at the cost of India’s health profile.
Shekhar Jain, Director, VKC Nuts, said, “In terms of health benefits, Walnut scores over all other nuts and is the richest vegetarian source of Omega 3 Fatty acids which is normally found in fish. With highest percentage of vegetarian population in the world, this nut stood out not just as a snack but an excellent health supplement for heart, brain and many other body functions. Allowing for imports of Walnuts in 2013 brought in a welcome respite to the scorched Indian market looking for this healthy nut at affordable prices as production of Kashmir walnuts has not kept pace with the burgeoning demand in India. A 100 percent BCD will end up with increase in prices to an extent that this ‘Wonderful Health Nut’ becomes unaffordable for the average Indian household and they will be deprived of a product that essentially should be a part of their daily dietary regime for ‘Healthier India’.”