APPLE GROWERS ANGUISHED

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Distressed Apple Growers Demand Pro-Active Response Of UT Admn

 

 

Apple Growers Anguished

 

Bisma Nazir

 

The dejected, disheartened fruit growers in Kashmir are struggling for the survival of the fruit

industry, and they feel that their own existence has shattered. This is because the market value

of the Kashmiri apple has fallen significantly, leading to huge losses for them.

There is hue and cry all across Kashmir valley, as fruit growers are not able to find the right

rates for their produce. Apple growers are distressed that while the expenditure on

each apple box of 18 to 20 kg is above Rs 450, market rates are running below Rs 600 a box in

local fruit mandis. The market rate in outside mandis is also the same, even though the ferrying

charges are exorbitant.

There are reports that farmers and fruit growers in many parts of Kashmir valley have

abandoned the produce in the orchards because of the poor rates. Reports say that in certain

areas, the farmers are plucking the fruits from their orchards only to destroy it in adjacent

nalas.

The expenditure incurred on the apple produce throughout the year has broken the backbone

of the farmers, who are burdened under the liabilities of pesticides, fungicides, insecticides,

manures and labour charges. In every household of fruit growers of Kashmir, there is deep

disappointment over the low market rates.

Poor Post-Harvest Management Facilities

The shelf life of the fruit can be extended only if post harvest management is initiated at the

right stage. Such facilities are not available at a wide scale in Kashmir despite the deep need.

 

Those who could have managed to dump their fruit in the cold storages are uncertain whether

the market shall improve in winter. They are not ready to take more risks in terms of

expenditures.

The dealers and forwarding agents are facing a very peculiar situation. They had given advances

to the poor fruit growers for their produce and the harvest is ready, but there is no market.

They are aghast on the downslide of the rates, which have rolled down to the lowest in last 10

to 15 years. Every person associated with the horticulture sector in Kashmir has turned pale.

Losses are running in hundreds of crores. This will impact the overall livelihood of millions of

people associated with the sector.

Growers Allege Poor Response Of Govt

Farmers and fruit dealers allege that the government of Jammu and Kashmir has not shown any

concern about the plight of the horticulture sector. They attribute the downslide in the market

to the insensitivity of the government towards the challenges the horticulture sector is facing.

Fayaz Ahmad Malik, President, Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, Sopore Mandi told

Kashmir Central that the Horticulture sector in Kashmir has not received the attention of the

administration that it deserves. Malik said that it may or may not be true but the perception

among the farmers is that the crises they are facing could have been easily addressed had the

government treated the horticulture sector as the priority sector. The artificial crises because of

the intrusion of the Iranian apple and the relaxation in taxation to the imported apples – these

factors have led to devastating consequences for the local produce.

Malik said that the government is giving more benefits to the imports at the cost of the local

produce. “People are talking about the quality of the produce. We have top quality, and it was

harvested at the beginning of the season. Even the high quality apple was sold for peanuts. It is

totally wrong to allege that Kashmiri apples don’t have the right quality. Our top quality apples

too have not been able to find a good market this season. This has shaken the farming

community,” Malik said.

Abdul Rashid Mir, a progressive fruit grower from Dachnipora in Anantnag district told Kashmir

Central that poor farmers may commit suicide because of the huge downslide in the market.

“The fruit is rotting in the orchards and also in the fruit mandis because there is no demand.

The UT Administration is only promoting the tourism sector and has abandoned the

horticulture industry,” he alleged.

Growers feel that the administration is somehow complacent in the losses incurred by the

horticulture sector. Horticulture is the backbone of the Kashmir economy, and almost every

household has stakes in the sector. It is urgent for the Administration to proactively address the

issues faced by the sector.

Growers further state that the market intervention scheme was introduced some years ago by

the government. It had provided some kind of support to the farmers. They allege that now,

this scheme has been abandoned.

 

Despite all the hardships, growers are hopeful of things getting better. They say that the

horticulture sector has survived many ups and downs. They hope that the situation will improve

if the Centre shows real interest in helping the local growers by imposing high import costs on

apples brought from abroad.

Gulam Hassan Nengroo, a progressive fruit grower and President of the Jablipora Fruit Mandi

Dealers Association said that farmers all across Kashmir valley are anguished over the poor

attitude of the administration towards the horticulture sector. “The farming community in

Kashmir has always been self-sufficient. We have never witnessed a situation where farmers

are forced to commit suicide. But this season, we are apprehensive that poorest of poor may

take extreme steps because of the liabilities hanging over their heads,” Nengroo said. “There is

distresses, distraught, dejection and desperation looming large over the farmers in every nook

and corner of Kashmir valley,” he added.

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