Srinagar: Cheaper Iranian apples have invaded Indian markets pushing Kashmiri farmers to the margins.
Data accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that Iran exported 1947.19 tonnes of apples valuing USD 1.82 million from April 2021 to January 2022.
Last year, farmers from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh formed a joint group to fight against illegal Iranian imports.
Cheaper varieties of Iranian apples are being sold as Afghan produce to avoid duties. Since India has a free trade agreement with Kabul, Iranian traders camouflage apples as Afghan produce to avoid import duty. Iranian apples are shipped through Wagah and sold at Rs 40 per kilo.
Last year, farmers from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh had written to the Ministry of Agriculture to stop “the illegal sale of Iranian apples.”
President, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealer’s Association Bashir Ahmad Basheer hoped that the Centre will ban the “illegal import of Iranian apples” to save the domestic horticulture industry.
“We took up this issue with the administration last year. The government should take measures to ban imports. Our harvesting season may begin this month with cherry. We hope that the Centre takes measures to save the horticulture industry,” he said.
With a huge quantity of apples still lying in cold storage, Bashir said the continuous flow of Iranian fruit might affect the market.
“The import of Iranian apple is still going on. We still have a large quantity of apples in cold storage, which will be transported to mandis in the coming weeks. Farmers might again suffer losses if the government doesn’t ban the illegal import of Iranian apples,” he said.
Bashir alleged that many dealers have dumped Iranian apples at the ports of Mumbai and Chennai, which they will sell at low rates in the Mandis.
Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. Horticulture contributes eight percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.
More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land are under fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares are under apple cultivation.
Each year, around 1.5 to 2 lakh metric tons of apples are stored in cold stores across Kashmir to reap rich dividends during the off-season, especially in March, April, and May when their prices soar.