Top US walnut producer eying India market

walnutHUGHSON, US: With India’s market for walnut showing strong demand, a top American producer and processor is confident of doubling his exports to India this year of the ‘king of nuts’, considered a good source of healthy fats.

“We are excited about the possibilities in India regarding California walnuts,” John Mundt, owner of Alpine Pacific Nut Co., Inc. said.

“We feel India has a lot of untapped potential with regards to the population size as well as the desire for people to start eating what is considered a healthy diet/life style,” Mundt told PTI in this Californian prosperous city.

“We are hoping to double our volume this year may be to 30 container loads,” he said.

India allowed California walnuts to be shipped to the country in 2013.

He also noted that people in countries like China and India who have entered the middle class and have money to spend were increasingly consuming walnuts, which is good for health.

“People are just eating healthier in general,” he said.

Alpine Pacific Nut, which has a 500 acre farm in California’s fertile Central Valley, and a state-of-the-art processing plant, mainly sells inshell walnuts that are packed in 50-pound sacks that are then either hand shelled in India or sold inshell to local markets.

“We are working with a handful of local importers who have been able to help us navigate the markets. Since this is fairly new market for California Walnut suppliers its very important to have some good contacts in India who know the local markets and can gain new markets for us,” Mundt said.

He also noted that like any new markets it will take time to develop the Indian market and this could take a few years.

“But so far we are liking the potential (of the Indian market),” he said.

At the same time, he said that price is always the determining factor in exports.

“We see pricing this year as very favorable and this could help increase our volume to India,” he said.

Alpine Pacific was founded 17 years ago by John Mundt and his wife Catherine.

The company currently processes over 40 million pounds of California walnuts and distributes domestically and overseas.

Apart from a modern orchard and mechanized operations, it has a modern processing plant which includes latest equipment used for hulling and drying walnuts.

The company is active in most markets from the industrial user, to bakeries, to re-baggers as well as inshell markets.

Walnuts are harvested from September to November.

Mundt said his orchard has a variety of walnuts. While Chandler variety is favored for its blonde, light color and mild flavor, other varieties like Howards, Vina and Hartelys are also planted in the orchard.

Unlike in India, walnuts are removed from trees by mechanical shakers in the US, which shake the nuts to the ground. Walnuts are then swept from the orchard floor by mechanical harvesters and taken to processing facilities where they are cleaned and packaged.

After a pass through the rock tank to separate the floating walnuts from any unwanted field debris like leaves, the walnuts are put into a dehydrator where a warm wind blows over them for 12 to 18 hours to reduce the moisture content to seven per cent.

Since 99 per cent of the US commercial supply of walnuts and three-quarters of globally traded supply comes from California, precision sorting is required, Mundt said.

Since the global demand for shelled nuts is greater than the market for in-shell, the company shell the walnuts using a cone cracker, then laser-sort to remove any kernels with defects and hand-sort on a picking table to select premium nuts.

Walnuts are a semi-fresh food, meaning that with proper storage and handling walnuts are good to eat for up to one calendar year he said.-PTI

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