Kashmiri Apple Growers Worried By Low Cost Iranian Apples
Demand high duty on imported apples to save local growers
The apple harvesting is on peak in Kashmir. Reaping the seasonal produce, farmers have high
hopes of making good profit. But the Kashmiri apple is facing huge competition in the outside
markets. The apples which are imported in India from Iran via Afghanistan have hit hard the
Valley’s apple produce.
The Iranian apples which flooded the Indian markets are available at cheap rates, thus cutting
down rates of Kashmiri apples. The low rates have led to dejection among local fruit growers.
Farmers feel that their pleas are not being heard by the authorities. The growers are depressed
with the low market rates.
Ishfaq Wani, an apple grower, has 150 apple boxes packed, and said he was waiting to dispatch
them to the Fruit Mandi in South Kashmir. “It is very tough to survive on fruit growing. I and my
family members and two to three labourers work in the orchard from morning till night. But all
hard work goes in vain because spraying and other costs exceeds the annual profit,” said Wani.
“Sometimes I get highly disappointed,” he said.
‘Impose High Duty On Imported Apples’
The import of apples from other countries is making Kashmiri apple suffer. Farmers demand
that the government must impose 100 percent import duty on imported apples so that the
local growers are able to make good sale and are hence meet their costs.
Farmers say that the skyrocketing prices of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals required
for proper growth and colour of the apple has contributed to low profits. Farmers rue that
substandard chemicals have impacted the taste and colour of Kashmir’s produce, especially the
Mansoor Bhat from central Kashmir’s Budgam district said that he had 100 apple boxes. He sold
his produce in Anantnag but was sad that he did not get good rates. “To balance the expenses,
one has to compromise with the current market rate,” Bhat said. “I was waiting for the rates to
go up, but finally I had to sell my produce. Our expenses are high. Costly pesticides and
fertilizers have become a burden for the growers. We work for a whole reason waiting for good
rates, but in the end we don’t get what we expect and hence we face depression,” Bhat pointed
Government Intervention Needed
The import of apples from other countries without any import duty has crippled the local apple
industry. Growers said that even though Kashmiri apples have good taste and colour, they are
not registering a high demand. “This is because of the low cost apples available in the market.
Iranian apples come via Afghanistan and they are duty free. They are giving stiff competition to
Kashmiri apples,” said a grower.
Growers and apple traders of Kashmir are demanding that the entry of Iranian apple via
Afghanistan must be stopped as it is illegal. Growers say that in order to avail zero duty under
the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) pact, apples from Iran are being brought into India via
Afghanistan. SAFTA is an agreement between eight South Asian Countries Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Growers highlight that Iran
is not part of SAFTA and apples from that country reach India via Afghanistan, bypassing import
High Costs, Low Revenue
Kashmiri apple growers are worried about their low returns. Inflation has hit everything hard.
“The costs have doubled, but the purity and the originality of any product is not guaranteed.
Pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are available at very high cost, but they are not effective,” a
grower told Kashmir Central. He added that it has become essential for growers to spray
multiple times in a season. He added that just about a decade ago, growers did not need
multiple sprays on apples.
“We are suffering because the pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are not of good quality. High
quality fertilizers lead to better growth of leaves, flowers and fruits. But we get low standard
chemicals now, which are harming us. Despite multiple sprays, the fruit does not have good
colour or rich taste. These chemicals make the plant weak, even though they save flowers,
leaves and fruit from pests or fungi diseases,” complained a grower.