On February 17, while launching much touted about ‘High-Density Apple Plantation Scheme’, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced that 2017 would be observed as the ‘Year of Apple’ to position Jammu and Kashmir’s Rs 6,500-crore fruit industry in the mainstream economic discourses of the state.
The decision was aimed to promoted Kashmiri apple – the way Kashmir tourism is promoted – in national and international markets, as it is facing a serious competition after centre government relaxed import norms for apples in 2016 and opened more ports for free importation of the fruit from foreign countries.
As the year will end today and 11 months have passed since CM’s proclamation, there is no chance to observe now 2017 as the ‘Year of Apple’.
Whole year, J&K Government kept issuing press statements about the events, international seminars and other functioning, which were supposed to be organised as part of the ‘Year of Apple’ programme and kept announcing dates for the ‘formal launch’, but none of the functions, neither the formal launch happened and 2017 passed.
Soon after the CM’s announcement in February, Horticulture Planning and Marketing Department was made the nodal agency for holding the commemorations and it held a slew of meetings with other allied and concerned departments to decide the modalities for observing different events to observe 2017 as the ‘Year of Apple’.
Government spelt out a detailed plan during a high-level meeting chaired by the Horticulture Minister Syed Basharat Bukhari, along with MoS Priya Sethi on June 5. To promote apple as a tourism crop of Kashmir, and to observe 2017 as the ‘Year of Apple’ to integrate the state’s prime fruit crop as one of the tourist attractions and ensure its better brand building and marketing on professional lines.
The minister, during the meeting, had asked the concerned departments to prepare for the ‘formal launch’ of the ‘Year of Apple’ campaign next month (July), which will continue throughout the year. Bukhari at that time also announced that a buyer-seller meet, an international apple conference in Srinagar and apple exhibitions in Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmadabad, besides ‘intensive and extended’ awareness programmes to be launched within and outside the state for promotion of Kashmiri apple in collaboration with J&K Bank, SKUAST-K and Tourism Department.
On June 15, the government announced constitution of a Coordination Committee “to work out the modalities of celebrating 2017 as Apple Year”. Secretary Horticulture was made the chairperson of the committee, while Director Horticulture Kashmir, Director Planning and Marketing Horticulture, Assistant Director Research Fruit Science, SKUAST-K, Vice President J&K Bank and AVP J&K Bank were made its members.
The committee, along with Director Information and Director Tourism held two meeting on September 26 and October 25 to take stock of “the arrangement being done regarding the ‘Apple Year’ launch” and announced two dates for the ‘launch’. In October, Department of Horticulture Planning and Marketing (HPM) put a big hoarding in a busy city junction announcing that ‘Year of Apple’ would be launched soon. But all these announcements proved to be mere announcements, as the year passed by.
Director HPM Manzoor Qadri said that due to “some difficulties” launch could not happen. “But we are working on it and now the “Apple of Year’ would be in 2018,” Qadri added.
While making the announcement, CM had emphasised the importance of the apple industry in helping Kashmir during troubled times and presently its role in sustaining the livelihood of more than 30 lakh people in the state. “It is a matter of satisfaction that horticulture industry sustained the economy of the state, much ahead of other sectors, during the last three decades of difficult times,” she had said while addressing the gathering of fruit growers on the scheme launch.