Let’s unbox Kashmiri apple to the market

By: Raheeba Tun Nisa and Altaf Ahmad Wani

The apple is a rosaceous fruit belonging to genus Malus. It is a widely grown fruit in temperate zones of both Northern and Southern hemispheres. Antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber are abundant in apples. Apple phytonutrients and antioxidants may aid to lower cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease risk. It’s high in carbohydrates such as sugars, dextrins, starch, hemicelluloses, cellulose, and pectic compounds, as well as proteins, vitamin C, beta carotene, and minerals such as iron and potassium. It also has a significant quantity of sorbital, as well as important acids such as maleic and citric acid.

In India, the apple was introduced by the British in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh in 1865. Globally apple is cultivated over an area of 47.17 lakh hectares with a production of 872.36 lakh tonnes and productivity of 18.49 tonnes ha-1.

In India, apple is cultivated on 3.08 lakh hectare with a production of 23.16 lakh tonnes and productivity of 7.52 tonnes ha-1.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the area under apple is 1.65 lakh hectares with the production of 18.82 lakh tonnes and productivity is around 11.40 tonnes ha-1.

In the Indian subcontinent, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has a climate that is particularly well-suited for the production of temperate fruits, particularly apples.

Kashmir has for long been called the home of apples. The fruit business is the backbone of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, and it has enormous potential to improve rural people’s living conditions.

The question that now emerges is whether the apple industry actually supports the valley’s economy or whether valley growers are content with their current output? No it seems apple industry is drowning nowadays.

Growers are not satisfied with their production even they are working so hard. Despite their greatest efforts, they are left with nothing but disappointments.

Let’s reveal the concrete issues that our valley’s growers are experiencing from the production stage of apple to the ultimate step of its marketing. The political unrest in 2019 came first, followed by the pandemic in 2020. But even after these problems were resolved, farmers are still in the same predicament. Unexpected disease spread is one significant issue. Our apple growers are using inappropriate chemical pesticides on recommendation of unknown persons. We believe if they use chemicals on recommendation of experts of agriculture universities or follow the spray schedule that has been formulated by SKUAST-K for their ease; they undoubtedly will overcome the problem of disease spread.

Kashmiri apples are battling for existence despite having a high rate of production since the introduction of Turkish and Iranian apple chunks into Indian cities has reduced the value of Kashmiri apples’ produce and placed a shadow over it. Let’s develop the habit of brimming apples in our daily diet, which will inevitably boost its demand in the years to come. First, we need to grow its demand in our own valley. Then, we may anticipate it becoming in demand in other Indian cities. We are aware that in Kashmir, if one person starts a certain activity, others would undoubtedly fall into line, thereby increasing the demand for that activity. Due to the lack of demand for Kashmiri apples in the country’s markets, prices have dropped, and fruit growers are losing money as labor costs, transportation costs, and the cost of cardboard and wooden boxes continue to rise. However, the price of an apple per box is still the same as it was seven to eight years ago, and the misery doesn’t stop somewhere because trucks carrying apples are forced to stop on national highways for five to six days, during which time they rot. Despite being aware of all these obstacles, the government seems to be acting like a passive observer. Why do they seem to remain silent on the subject that is connected to the feelings of our growers? Despite having all the authority they ought to, they don’t appear particularly compelled to take action and fix their problems. Supplying spurious chemicals, fertilizers, skyrocketing market prices, and outrageous rates of goods that raise the cost of production for valley growers should be prohibited. By establishing high density apple trees, the government should act to save the apple businesses. Universities and agricultural research institutes should host training camps and give high-quality equipment to farmers on a subsidized basis. Soil testing should be carried out in order to introduce a viable crop when necessary. In order to prevent fruit from rotting like apples in mandis and on national highways, facilitation centers must exist in each district from where the fruits can be transported without any difficulties to other states.

Additionally, the government should reconsider its position about the GST and implement a variety of export-oriented measures. Growers should be protected by land regulations, not discriminated against. There should be more programs put in place to aid those employed mostly in agriculture. By supporting farmers from the point of production to the point of consumption and by encouraging the growth of diverse, high-quality plants, our government can prevent the decline of the Kashmir valley’s apple sector, which is the region’s primary source of income.

Raheeba Tun Nisa is a Phd- Scholar SKUAST, Kashmir and Altaf Ahmad Wani is  Marketing Manager at BCS (Plant pathologist)


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