Srinagar: Last week when a truck loaded with Iranian apples entered India via the Wagha border, it brought down the rates of Kashmir apples by more than 30 percent in New Delhi’s Azadpur fruit mandi.
Worried and distressed, the valley-based fruit growers shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha seeking a ban on the duty-free apple from Iran to India.
“Galamast variety, which was usually sold at Rs 1200 per box now sells Rs 800 per box in Azadpur mandi. We wrote to Prime Minister and LG to ban the import otherwise Kashmir’s horticulture will suffer a massive setback,” said Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Association.
The harvesting season for apples has begun in Kashmir and growers are worried about imports of the cheaper Iranian varieties.
Already dealing with high packaging rates, Kashmir’s fruit growers have already started feeling the heat as Iranian apples have started invading Indian markets.
“Imports grow during peak season in Kashmir. Within a month our main apple variety `delicious’ will be harvested. We fear that if Iranian apples are imported it may cause our heavy losses,” said Bashir.
Bashir said cheaper Iranian apples flood Indian markets from December to March. As the result, the prices of superior Kashmiri apples drop by 40 percent.
“Iranian apple cost just Rs 40-50 per Kilogram. Earlier they used to reach the Indian market through ports. Now they are being shipped via land routes. If the import from Iran continues during peak season, Kashmir’s horticulture will have the worst phase,” Bashir said.
As per Bashir, so far the valleys fruit produce has had not a satisfactory market this year. “Babgosha is selling at Rs 500-800 per box. The market for other varieties too has not been satisfactory,” he said.
Last year, farmers from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh formed a joint group to fight against illegal Iranian imports.
Data reveals that Iran exported 1947.19 tonnes of apples valuing USD 1.82 million from April 2021 to January 2022.
North Kashmir’s fruits Growers president, Fayaz Ahmad Malik said the government will have to ban or impose a duty on Iranian apples to save the local industry.
“Horticulture provides employment to lakhs of people. The government will have to ban the import of Iranian apples before the peak season. The growers are already nervous given their past experience due to the flow of this cheaper variety of apples,” he said.
An official from the horticulture department said they will take up the matter with the government.