Srinagar, Jan 02: Fruit growers and traders in Kashmir predict losses as the apple prices in the markets outside go down by 60 per cent.
According to fruit growers, the quality of the fruit hasn’t been good this season due to “unfavourable conditions” including hailstorm and lesser rains in major apple producing districts.
The decline in market rates has pushed many growers to store their harvest in cold storages across the valley in hope of a better season.
President Apple Growers Association, Mushtaq Ahmad, said the downfall was shocking for them.
“The rates of apples in the market are very low. In 2016, the market rates were good compared to 2017, and it is a big concern for the industry,” he said.
He said that the apple industry in Kashmir would face “a silent death” if the government would not take positive steps to save it.
Bashir Ahmad Bashir, President Parimpora Mandi, told The Kashmir Monitor that the demand for Kashmiri apples outside the state has also decreased.
“Apple has lost its importance here as well as outside the state. The main reason is the loss in quality caused by the drought. We did not receive a good rainfall in 2017, causing a delay in production and loss in quality,” he said.
He said 90% of the delicious apple produced in the valley is considered A- grade and the remaining is B grade.
“Valley is known for the delicious quality of apple. But unfortunately we are suffering huge losses,” he said.
“The current market rate of A grade apple is Rs 500 to Rs 600 against the original rate of Rs 800 and for B grade it is Rs 150 to Rs 300 against the original rate Rs 500 which is very low.”
He said the packing price for each box of apple was Rs 500.
He said the production of apple in 2017 was only 3,000 tons higher than 2016 year.
“In 2017, the production of apple was 16,000 ton and in 2016 it was 12,000-13,000 ton,” he said.
The presidents fear the apple industry would face the same fate as the handicrafts or shawl industries in the valley.
“The apple industry in Kashmir is declining. We hope it would make a comeback again,” they said.
Majid A Wafai, President cold storage owners association, said their all cold storages were occupied with fruits.
“In 2016, 80% of our cold storages were occupied but currently 91% cold storages are occupied. We have received a huge response from the apple growers. They want to store the fruits because market rates are very low,” he said.
Abdul Ahad Sofi, a noted Pomologist, attributed the low rate and poor quality of fruit to lack of irrigation facilities in the valley.
He said due to less irrigation facilities the apple industry was suffering.
“Water is very important for normal growth of apple. Due to less rains, we cannot let our apple industry to die,” he said.
He also said that the government should focus on the irrigation facilities not just for apple production but for the entire agriculture sector.
“Our natural resources here are mainly rivers. The water is wasted through,” he said.
“The government can use proper irrigation channels through which this water can be used properly. Due to less water the apple could not grow to its proper size and the colour was also affected.”
In the last six years, production of apple in Kashmir has dwindled by a massive 1,40,373 Metric Tonnes (MT) even as the area has expanded by over 18,000 hectares.