“Glee to Wrath-Year 2022” for Kashmir’s apple growers

Dr. Naqeeb Raja, Prof. Raihanna Habib Kanth and Altaf Ahmad Wani

Apple production being predominantly confined to districts of Baramulla, Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Budgam, Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kupwara in Kashmir province.

Kashmir Valley individually exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple annually and produces 75 percent of India’s total apple
produce. Only, Horticulture sector individually is worth approx. Rs.8000 to Rs.9000cr and as per latest official data, Apple industry provides jobs to about 3.5 million people and contributes about ten percent of the UT’s GDP. Amidst having the booming apple production in Kashmir this season (2022) failed badly to cherish apple growers because their produce was being sold at nearly 30 per cent lower rates than last year (2021). “Kashmiri-Apple” hogged the headlines in the month of September after an uproar over frequent disruption in transportation from orchards to markets outside the UT-Kashmir, including
Azadpur Mandi which is Asia’s largest wholesale market. Despite having quality bumper crop this season the expenses like packaging and transportation charges have almost doubled compared to last year. The
rates being directly linked to the supply and demand amidst having the supply more, the product rate got down by about 30 per cent.

Also, the frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway due to
landslides during the peak harvesting season and stranding of fruit laden trucks for days together had its worst impact too which resulted in the untimely supply of the rotten produce to the mandis.

The official concerned authorities can come forward to ease this menace otherwise it will be very hard and difficult in coming years to overcome from situations like these and if the horticulture industry will cripple it will leave its dark effects on the GDP too. So, it is the humanitarian and religious duty of every concerned authority personnel in power to safeguard #Growers by providing subsidies on the products used in packaging, good quality cardboards can be provided, transportation charges can be fixed and taxes on trucks transporting fruit can be abolished.

Furthermore, the construction of macadamized roads covering all orchards for fruit transportation can do wonders, setting up of controlled atmosphere (CA) cold stores at the village level and encouraging farmers to install the latest machinery for grading can help the apple growers to overcome losses. Also, the reason was lack of scientific advisory not taken into consideration by the respected Apple Growers of Kashmir Valley resulting in low quality produce. But, we can substantially improve the quality of production of existing orchards by focusing on a few important issues which are the root cause of low quality produce.

Top priority must be pollination management, sufficient pollination not only increases fruit set but also has a great impact on quality as well. Diversity in planting material in an orchard also suppresses pests. During the field visits, interaction with farmers and through
farmers feedback i came to the conclusion that majority of farmers don’t have a proper understanding of compatibility of pollinizers in their orchards and their role in fruit set and quality and same is true with
pollinators like bees.

Indiscriminate use of chemicals is one among the reasons for the suppressed population of pollinators which once again is due to lack of awareness or sometimes for want of getting more at any cost without understanding the repercussions. We must have a strong focus on pollination and canopy management.

Correcting these two aspects, in my opinion will give a boost to quality production even in the traditional orchards.

This article has been jointly written by Dr. Naqeeb Raja (Subject Matter Specialist-ISAP), Prof. Raihanna Habib Kanth, DEAN-FOA SKUAST-K Wadura Sopore and Altaf Ahmad Wani (Marketing Manager BCS). Ziraat Times has not content edited this piece.)

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