Almonds losing battle to apple; cultivation area down by 70%

Srinagar: Almonds in Kashmir are giving way apple cultivation, with the former’s area declining by more than 70 per cent in last six years.
As per the data, the land area under almond production was 16,418 hectares in 2011, which has reduced to 6977 hectares in 2017.
Farmers cite the low returns and adverse climate conditions as prime reason for the conversion of their almond farm lands.
Pulwama district, which has been dominating the Valley in almond production, has seen enormous growth of apple orchards.
As per the data by Horticulture Department, only 4668 hectares of the land was under the cultivation of almond fruit in 2016 in the entire district.
The locals said that the invasions of the “low grade” almonds from other countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan had degraded their market countrywide.
“A decade ago, Kashmiri almonds would be preferred in every regions of the country. But now the situation has escalated to the extent that people are planting apples saplings now in their orchards,” Muhammad Akbar a resident of Wasoora in Pulwama district said.
Koil, a village in the same district where 70 per cent of farmers would grow has seen fast turning to apple orchards.
“The trend is equally growing in other villages of the vicinity,” a resident said.
In Pulwama district hundreds of kanals in Payar, Chandigam, Lajoora, Pahnard, Pachnargd and Thokernag villages have been converted to other crops.
“We have been witnessing three consecutive bad years. In 2014, the flood wreaked havoc and in 2015 and 2016, Kashmir received heavy rains which further damaged our crop. Now almond cultivation is no more a lucrative business,” Arshid Ahmad a local from Lajoora village said.
Data further said that the Budgam district alone has lost as much as 5,665 hectares of almond land in 2015.
In district Budgam’s Hayatpora village, more than half of the population has converted their almond orchards to apple crop in past four years.
The growers claim that the low turnout was the driving force behind the mass conversion of almond orchards into apple crop.
“Some two or three years ago our village would produce as much as 600 quintal of almond which has been now reduced to 300 quintals. Almonds don’t fetch enough revenue here now while fruit like apple is proving more beneficial for growers. We over the years have seen that a huge number of growers have converted their land into apple orchards,” Manzoor Ahmad Rather, a grower said.
Director Agriculture, Mir Muhammad Hussain, said they were working to ensure increase in its production across the state.
“I can’t say whether it has increased or decreased. But almond is a very sensitive crop and besides people’s preferences do change,” he said.

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