Kashmir’s apple industry needs ‘3C Strategy’

By: Inaam Meer

When an apple fell down on Newton’s head, he conceived the laws of gravitation. And, today, when the rates of apples have fallen in Kashmir, I propose the 3C Strategy!

Being an ardent student of Agricultural Economics and Horticulture Business Management, let me state the obvious – the elasticity of demand and supply for many agricultural products are relatively small when compared with those of many industrial products.

This inelasticity of demand has led to problems of price instability in agriculture when either supply or demand shifts in the short-term. Taking instance of this year, the rates are reportedly swimming 40% below the revenue level and the growers are thumping their chests in sheer annoyance. This has caused a great grotesquerie in their both, modus operandi as well as modus vivendi. The ameliorating input costs and dwindling outputs have left them questioning their practices.

There are several theories to the price fall. And I believe in a few of them. Like supply exceeding the demand due to bumper production, limited CA storage capacity, huge import of apples from foreign countries beyond the SAFTA agreement raising the competition bar for our local apples, poor transport and road clearance, high charging commission agents and what not!

Nevertheless, this is just the tip of a deleterious iceberg in this sector. If the steering of our produce is not oriented towards a safer place, the industry will turn turtle in coming years. And here exactly, my dear beautiful people of my beautiful motherland, comes up my C3 strategy. First C is for Consultation. Second C for Confirmation. And the third C for Construction.

1. Consultation: In this strategy, the growers will need to consult the experts throughout the season for matching the international standards of quality. It’ll target the disease management, orchard specific spray schedule provisions, integrated pest and nutrient management, training and pruning assistance, need based prescriptions and advisories to the growers. Here I take pride in mentioning my own digital horticulture consultancy “The Garden Guardians” which is holistically serving Kashmir since 2017.

2. Confirmation: In this strategy, the grower will need to confirm the varieties he’s growing. Whether these varieties have a market potential or not. If they don’t, then he should go immediately for rejuvenation and top grafting by latest high colour and commercially viable varieties. Also, he’ll need to confirm whether the varieties that he’s growing have a good shelf life or not because the storage capacity of Kashmir is limited. If they don’t, either he needs to replace them with greater shelf-life varieties or he needs to access the post-harvest treatments like 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) for home storage up to about five months. Also, he should confirm the elevation and soil type for his varieties and rootstocks respectively. This will help him choose varieties and rootstocks specific to his location rather than randomly falling into the trap of imitating self-claimed progressive growers.

3. Construction: This is by far the most important strategy that a grower needs to focus upon. He’ll need to join any FPO or a village level fruit-based Cooperative which will subsequently authorize his production besides providing a bargaining power infront of the market players outside state. In addition to this, the higher authorities need to construct more FPO’s, promote feasible Market Intervention Schemes, upscale more controlled atmosphere storage infrastructures, facilitate smoother traveling of fruit loaded vehicles, stop illegal trades, boost local markets, close under towel rate fixing in mandis, promote open auction selling and buying, regulate affordable commissions for high charging middlemen, provide subsidy on orchard inputs, tools and machineries, and ensure in making Kashmiri Apple a world famous brand once again.

Apart from all these appalling situations, amidst all these gloomy shakes of time, amongst all these unseemly happenings, let’s profoundly promote our pulchritudinous produce profusely and prolifically while having a firm belief that these antagonistic winds are just to raise us onwards and upwards. Also let us reaffirm our faith on the belief that this too shall pass, In Sha Allah!

The writer is a Horticulture Business Management student at SKUAST-Kashmir.

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