Foreign walnuts gaining popularity among Kurdish farmers
PM:08:19:07/04/2017
he Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has planned to build 10 exemplary farms with Israeli walnut trees in Erbil. 

"We will build 10 exemplary farms for farmers in the area of Harir, Rwanduz and Shaqlawa. Our aim is to pay attention to this type of walnut in Kurdistan, which is a productive walnut tree and very suitable with Kurdistan’s climate,” Luqman Mustafa, director of Erbil’s farms.
 
Private farmers have been planting Israeli walnuts in the Kurdistan Region for the past few years. But it is the first time the Ministry of Agriculture is paying particular attention to Israeli walnuts which can endure high temperatures up to 40 Celsius. 

The product has proven especially apt for Kurdistan’s mountainous regions. 

"Each farm will cost 2 million Iraqi dinars (1,670 USD). We will give free saplings (to the farmers) and cover 50 percent of the cost of the irrigation system, water pumps, manure and pesticides,” Mustafa added. 

There is only one Israeli walnut farm in the Kurdistan Region, and that is in the township of Piran, near the town of Mergasor. The farm is built by a local, which is 50,000 square-meters

"I planted two Israeli walnut saplings 12 years ago. I found out they were productive trees. I therefore planted more of them. I now have 700 Israeli walnut trees in my farm,” Abdullah Majid, owner of the farm, told Rudaw. 

Walnut yields increase as the trees mature.

"The farm is planted with walnut seeds. The saplings bear only two walnuts in the first year, seven in the second year, and nearly 30 in the third year. The older the tree gets, the more walnuts it bears. In general, their harvest increases by 30 percent annually,” he said.

Israeli walnut trees reach the peak of their harvest after 20 years of being planted — a single tree can bear nearly 30 kilograms of walnut; whereas, the farmer said, local trees bear walnuts after seven years of being planted and reach the peak of their harvest after 50 years of being planted where each tree produces 60 kilos of walnut. 

"In an attempt to increase this type of walnut in Kurdistan, for four years I have been selling the product of my farm to private and government sapling farms. They plant the seeds and then sell the saplings to Kurdistan’s farmers,” Majid detailed. 

"I can say I have sold 1.5 million Israeli walnuts to private and government sapling farms during these four years. They plant them first, and then sell the saplings to farmers. I think 80 percent of the Israeli walnut trees which exist in Kurdistan come from the two saplings which I brought from Iran to Kurdistan,” he said. 

There are different opinions about the origin of what in the Kurdistan Region is known as Israeli walnuts. Some say this particular type of walnut is American, and some say Australian. However, there can be different variations as sub-species adapt to their environments.


 

Black walnuts "Juglans nigra," found across North America, are commercially desired for their rich taste and the perceived beauty of the grain of the wood. The common walnut "Juglans cinerea" is also known as the Persian or English walnut. 

"The hull of local walnuts is thicker than that of the Israeli ones. Most of local walnuts are just hull, with 75 of them weighing a kilo. But the hull of Israeli walnuts is thin, with 110 of them weighing a kilo,” Majid added. 


Majid’s farm has now become an Israeli walnut source for other sapling farms in the Kurdistan Region. The 10 farms where the KRG is planning to build will get their saplings from this farm in Piran. 

The only problem Majid has with his farm is most of the walnuts fall off before the harvest season. That is why last year’s harvest of his farm, which has 700 walnut trees, was only 1,000 kilos of walnut. 

"Last year, I found out one reason for their falling off is the lack of water, as there was a shortage of water in the past. Unlike local walnut trees, this type of walnut tree needs to be irrigated in July through September when they reach their harvest season. This year, I have dug a well, which is why the product can reach four to five tons,” Majid said. 

The Ministry of Agriculture doesn’t have accurate and complete figures on the number of walnut trees in the Kurdistan Region. 

"We don’t have accurate figures on the number of walnut trees. But I predict there are 450,000 trees in the Kurdistan Region,” said Hussein Hamakarim, director general of the ministry’s farms and forests.

"In the past, we built 15 exemplary farms for farmers, each 2,500 square meters, in the province of Sulaimani. Annually, we have also been dedicating Israeli walnut saplings to farmers with an affordable price. But this year, for the first time in the Kurdistan Region, we have decided to build 10 exemplary Israeli walnut farms to farmers of Erbil. Half of its cost will be covered by us,” he added. 

All walnuts are nutrient-rich with proteins and essential fatty acids.

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