Apples turning sour
From the past several weeks the apple traders, growers and dealers are a worried lot. They have been protesting the arrival of Iranian apples in various mandies across the country which has put the sale of apples from Kashmir and Himachal at an all time low.
The protesting traders have been reporting a loss of around 400 Rupees on every box of apples in wholesale markets which has put hundreds of growers at huge risk. At present several crore apple boxes are lying at various cold storage chains as growers were expecting a bumper demand after the onset of winter season.
However, the less demand in the market has put their proposals at risk and they are bound to experience huge losses during the coming months.
Apple trade in Kashmir earns approximately Rs 8000 crores annually. Experts believe that the earnings can rise to Rs 10000 crores if cull apples are processed in Kashmir. Besides, more than 33 lakh people in Kashmir, including seven lakh growers are involved with the apple trade.
Interestingly, almost 70 per cent of apples that India exports are grown in Kashmir. With 21 per cent unemployment in J&K, the highest among all the states, assault on Kashmiri apples will leave a huge dent on the region’s economy.
The trade has been already under stress owing to the past few years. First the restrictions during 2019 and later the covid-19 pandemic meant heavy losses for the trade however, this year the expectations were quite high as the growers got a bumper yield and the rates too were attractive during the early November and December.
Kashmir’s main contributors to the economy are its horticultural and other produces. This year the demand which was expected to be high has not turned into a reality and the rates that are being offered post arrival of Iranian apples in the market are bare minimum.
Kashmir’s cash crop economy which includes produce from the horticulture and allied sectors has gone for a toss, like it did in the last few years. As the Covid-19 pandemic has meant financial losses for the growers, Kashmir’s farming community is pinning its hopes on a miracle which alone can save them from a disaster.
Interestingly, Jammu and Kashmir is well known for its horticultural produce both in India and abroad. The region offers good scope for cultivation of horticultural crops, covering a variety of temperate fruits like apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, almond, cherry and subtropical fruits like mango, guava, citrus litchi, phalsa and Ber etc, besides medicinal and aromatic plants, floriculture, mushroom, plantation crops and vegetables.
But at the end of the day, failure to exploit these sectors owing to bad infrastructure is spoiling any gains that are made.
Besides, the government too must ensure protection to this sector by exploring possibilities of providing insurance cover to the produce so that farmers and growers do not end up at the losers end.