Chile adds walnuts to its list of Indian exports with ChileNut

Let the festive season commence, with Chilean walnuts now part of the gifting mix!
Chilean walnuts
Chilean walnuts are lighter in colour and sweeter. Image: shutterstock

ChileNut, the grower and exporter association of Chilean walnuts backed by ProChile, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs institution responsible for promoting the supply of Chilean goods and services globally, has launched the first generic promotion campaign in India to introduce Chilean walnuts.

One of the largest producers of walnuts in the world, Chile produces walnuts that are recognised for their extra light colour, freshness and high yield. The counter-seasonality of their production allows for a strategic supply to India during the festive season.

As it stands, the South American country already exports apples, kiwi fruit, pears, cherry, blueberries and avocadoes to India. Chile also enjoys a unique PTA agreement (duty advantage) with India for cherries, blueberries and avocadoes. 

Ambassador Juan Angulo at the event said, “Chile and India are strategic partners and the two countries are working closely to enhance bilateral trade. Chile being in the southern hemisphere perfectly complements the Indian production period. This counter seasonality allows Indian consumers to try out fresh Chilean products when supplies from other origins are unavailable.”

According to Ms. Marcela Zúñiga Alegría, Trade Commissioner of ProChile, New Delhi, the natural conditions of Chile and a geographic advantage allow for the undisturbed growth of high-quality walnuts. 

Sumit Saran, In-Country Marketing Representative for Chilean Walnuts, remarked, “We foresee an immense potential for Chilean walnuts in India. The demand here for high-quality walnuts is continuously rising. Chile will have an important role as the production of walnuts in Chile is 100 per cent counter-seasonal to Indian walnuts and also to other northern hemisphere walnut origins that are supplying to the market.”

The largest exporter of walnuts in the southern hemisphere and second largest globally, Chile has had access to Indian markets since 2014. As media reports suggest, however, things have not always been the smoothest. Traders were initially apprehensive given India’s demands for methyl bromide treatment as opposed to the usual phosphine treatment, which created logistical issues. 

Because they grow in the southern hemisphere, chilean walnuts benefit from counter-seasonality and can be available in the indian market during the festive season
Because they grow in the southern hemisphere, chilean walnuts benefit from counter-seasonality and can be available in the indian market during the festive season

Furthermore, in 2018, reports on India’s unilateral increase in tariffs on nuts had a major impact on Chilean exports. Walnuts were amongst the most affected, with rates rising from 30% to 100%. At the time, ChileNut met with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Directorate General of International Economic Relations (Direcon) and Indian importers to resolve the issue and ensure Chile was able to expand its export base in India.

The retaliatory tariffs came into place after the US under the Trump administration terminated its preferential trade privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. Even as trade tensions remained hard to resolve in 2019, the growing appetite for walnuts among Indian consumers persisted. As of 2020, USA remains the largest tree nut exporter of walnuts in India, with the latter being South Asia’s largest consumer market of the Californian export. 

Domestically, India produces around 30,000-35,000 tonnes of walnuts in Jammu and Kashmir, according to official data. Other states for walnut production include Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. The ongoing civil unrest and lack of due maintenance for walnut orchards in J&K mean that other states might have to be explored. 

Promoting the benefits of walnuts at the event were the likes of Neelanjana Singh, leading Indian nutritionist, world-renowned chef Manjit Singh Gill, leading patisserie chef Sahil Mehta, and food historian Osama Jalali, who also curated the evening’s walnut-inflected menu. As Chilean walnuts continue to thrive in Indian markets, it will be interesting to note how trade relations and competing domestic production will affect the product. For now, go nuts!

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