Worried farmers seek compensation; Horticulture Deptt constitutes committees to assess losses
By: Ahmed Shabir
Anantnag: Abdul Rashid, an apple grower from Sallar area of Pahalgam like other orchardists had very little produce last year. Out of the produce he was only able to clear his debt that he owed to the pesticide dealer, apple box dealer and fertilizer dealer.
This year, when he saw his apple orchards bloom in March, he was jubilant expecting a huge produce.
In the last three months, he completely followed the expert advice with regard to pesticides sprays to make sure that his orchards remain safe from any disease.
However four days ago, the hailstorm hit many villages of the area, thus simultaneously dashing all his hopes.
“The hailstones created havoc with both my orchards. Besides badly injuring the fruit, the hailstorm caused fall of leaves which will badly affect the growth of fruit. All my hopes of a bumper crop this year are shattered now,” Rashid said.
Besides Sallar, hailstorm devastated the orchards and other crops in several villages of Dachnipora, considered to be the biggest fruit producing area in the Valley. Some of the villages affected due to hailstorm include Sallar, Liver, Hamnadi, Sheikhpora, Wullarhama, Bagwani, Khiram, Srigufwara, Hatigam, Sirhama, Darigund , Nowshehra and Viddy.
Horticulture authorities have issued an advisory to the farmers with regard to the spray following the hailstorm but some orchardists say that the damage is such that no spray can undo it.
“My orchards have suffered 50 to 60 percent damage. Apple buds have developed cracks in the middle as if they have been attacked with stones. The hailstorm was not only heavy but for a longer duration which caused more damage,” said Gulzar Ahmad of Khiram.
It is not only Dachnipora area of Anantnag but orchardists in Shopian and Kulgam areas; two biggest apple producing areas also mourn the losses they suffered due to intense hailstorm last week for two running days.
The villages in twin districts hit by hailstorm include Kapran, Vehil , Check, Nowgam, Kachdoora, Kanjiullar, Dangam, Wangam, Pandushan and Gahind.
An orchardist from Gahind village, Nazir Ahmad told Precious Kashmir over phone that some orchards have suffered 80 percent losses.
“Hailstones rained in the area on Saturday and Sunday. Orchardists were happy this year as they were expecting bumper crop. But the hailstorm has caused complete devastation,” Ahmad said.
What worries the orchardists more is the bad weather ahead as predicted by some independent weather agencies.
“Every day in the late afternoon the dark clouds cover the sky. Every day it appears that it will be another hailstorm. If the weather does not improve and there are more hailstorms it will be devastating to the fruit industry,” said another orchardist.
Many farmers have demanded that the authorities assess the losses caused to orchards and provide some major relief to them.
“The major relief will be to waive off the interests on loans that orchardists have availed from various banks,” said Ghulam Hassan, an apple grower and trader.
Director Horticulture, Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat could not be reached despite repeated calls.
However, a district level Horticulture Officer said that teams have been constituted to assess the losses caused to the apple crop due to hailstorm in different districts.
“Teams in all the affected areas are on the job of assessing the damage. We will be submitting the report to the government with our recommendations and the decision to provide relief to the farmers will be taken at the very top level,” the officer said.