By: Aabid Hameed
Srinagar: After fetching good rates throughout the autumn, the fruit growers in Kashmir are now witnessing a down market as the rates have been continuously decreasing in different outside markets since last one month now.
Growers from different areas of Kashmir said that usually the rates of apples increase after ending November but as December 2021 started the rates have started declining due to the growers whose produce is yet to reach markets are very much worried.
Mohammad Yousuf, a grower from Shopian said that he is yet to send his 500 apple boxes as he was waiting for rates to increase but instead of increasing, “rates are decreasing with each passing day.”
He said that rates have decreased from Rs 300 to Rs 400 per box in the last one month and the farmers whose most produce is Kashmir are very much worried.
Experts dealing with fruit business said that around 35 percent of the produce is still lying in cold storage units and even hundreds of people have constructed sheds at their orchards where their produce is lying.
Mohammad Ashraf, a horticulture expert and former president of Fruit Growers Association at Aglar Shopian Mandi said that reasons for the decline in the rates include the import of the apples from Iran, which reaches Delhi on a daily basis, cold waves in northern states of India and lockdown, which has started in different parts of India due to emergence of new Covid variant omicron.
“The rates are down by around 35 percent as compared to the rates which were in autumn,” he said.
He said that it is duty of the government to protect apple industry but instead of protecting it, they are allowing import from Iran and Turkey which has decreased demand of apples coming from Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal.
He added that the apples coming from other countries are full of diseases which will slowly reach to our orchards which will badly affect this industry. He said that government must increase custom duty and CESS on the apples coming from other countries so as to protect this industry on which livelihood of around 70 percent population of Kashmir is directly or indirectly dependent.
Experts said that the recent lockdown announcement in Delhi, Kerala and other parts has also impacted rates of the apples as demand has further declined.
They said that as cold wave has also started in different parts of India in which people don’t prefer to take apples, which has also lowered the demand of apples.
Pertinently, Kashmir has around 3.4 lakh hectares of land under horticulture cultivation, most of it dedicated to apple. According to the J&K 2017 economic survey, 34 lakh people comprising seven lakh families are primarily dependent on horticulture in Kashmir.
The apple industry has already sustained heavy losses since abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, followed by heavy snowfall and the coronavirus lockdown. Many apple traders have gone bankrupt and have even sold their property to bear the losses.