J&K is the biggest producer of apples in this part of the globe, followed by Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It ensures the livelihoods of lakhs of people who directly or indirectly depend on the apple cultivation.
Apple is a popular fruit that remains in demand throughout the year. Of late, the indigenous apple industry literally grapples to stay afloat and as such need for supporting it to sustain various odds becomes crucial rather than the choice.
Apple growers in Kashmir face multiple issues. In contemporary times, one among them is the increase in the cost of boxes and other packaging material. According to the growers, the cost of packing has increased by over forty percent.
This, according to them, has hit their businesses, more so when increasing the rate for produce is not an option given the competition in the market. The growers claim that a wooden box that once cost them between Rs 50 and Rs 60 is now being sold for around Rs 110. The cardboard boxes are sold Rs 60–70, more than double the cost than the previous year according to them.
Not only this, the growers claim that essential packaging materials, such as paper and grass, have also increased considerably. The growers demand a government intervention also due to the fact that this year there has been low rates for early varieties of apple.
The intervention by the administration is surely needed to help proper incomes of the J&K’s orchardists who have a lot of ponder and invest to keep the produce edible.
In the spring of 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic lockdown fruit growers couldn’t visit their orchards to spray pesticides. This, according to them, led to scab diseases affecting around 60 per cent of the crop.
Last year, Kashmir’s apple industry faced another challenge due to the unregulated import of Iranian apples.
Thousands of growers had stored their produce in cold storage to send it to outside markets last year. However, due to the alleged import of Iranian apples, the growers said that there were not sufficient buyers for the Kashmiri apples.
The government should take measures needed to help the orchardists to tide over various challenges that crop up from time to time. Immediate steps are needed to regulate the prices of the packaging material. The government must also ensure regular support to the orchardists and help the tide over various complexities.