Srinagar: When Abdul Aziz Ganie decided to revive almond cultivation in Chandara, Pampore, he faced immense criticism from people.
The reason was that the village known for producing quality almonds was switching to apple production.
Undeterred, Ganie decided to plant almond trees on his two kanals of land, hoping to earn good money in the future. Ganie chose a new plant variety that was less prone to diseases and required low maintenance.
“I was being criticized because people considered it a suicidal move to prefer almonds over apples. People were relying on local variety which was prone to disease and was not market worthy,” he said.
Ganie tried the latest variety of almond saplings from the ICAR-Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH), Srinagar.
“When I narrated my plan to the officials at CITH, they were very happy that I was taking this step to revive the almond plantation. They gave me Bulgarian almond plants, which has a huge demand in the international market. I planted 50 saplings in two kanals of orchard land in my village,” he said.
For the last six years, Ganie has been harvesting dry fruit, which has given him good returns.
“The results are encouraging as I get good money for my crop. The plants are still in the initial stage and it will give me more returns in coming years,” he said.
Ganie said the new almond variety has a good demand in local as well as national markets.
“Bulgarian almonds are very rich in every respect. In the local dialect, the almonds are Kagzi (easy to break) and have good oil content and taste. I got good reviews from the dealers who buy my almonds,” he said.
Ganie is now planning to plant the saplings in three more kanals of land in his village. “Next year, I will plant almond saplings in three more kanals. My motive is to revive this crop as its production has declined in Kashmir due to the invasion by non-native apple varieties,” he said.
Ganie has set an example in the area and more farmers are also following in his footsteps.
“Other farmers also prefer almond cultivation. Though on a small scale, they also are willing to plant this quality breed of almond in their orchards,” he said.
Almond, which was widely grown in Kashmir is currently losing battle to apple. The area under almond cultivation has declined by nearly 70 percent in the last 10 years.
Data accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that the area under cultivation has declined from 16,418 hectares in 2011 to a mere 5483 hectares in 2021.
In scores of the villages of Pulwama, which is the largest producer of almonds, people have completely shifted to apple farming.
In villages Koil, Payar, Chandigam, Lajoora, Pahnard, Pachnargd, and Thokernag, hundreds of acres of land have been lost to either apple or some other crop.
As per figures, 115.05 metric tonnes of almonds were imported to India in 2019 compared to 34.36 metric tonnes in 2008.
In addition to the decline in almond production, heavy import of California almonds has hit its Kashmiri cousins.
The situation is such that Californian almonds are in huge demand among the people even in Kashmir..