In a significant development the Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to establish two state-of-art pesticide testing labs at two places in north and south Kashmir to save farmers from an influx of spurious chemicals which have wreaked havoc with the horticulture sector.
Director Horticulture Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad said that though the department has established a central pesticide testing laboratory but now the government has decided to establish two such laboratories one in North Kashmir and other in South Kashmir to check the menace of spurious pesticides.
"There is a dire need to check the use of spurious pesticides in Kashmir as it causes huge damage to our fruit industry. The Horticulture department has been time and again urging farmers to follow the spraying schedule and recommendation of the horticulture department," he said adding that "apart from pesticide testing lab there will be separate soil testing labs in each district of Kashmir division."
According to officials currently in Kashmir division, though the bulk of pesticides in Kashmir are used by horticulture industry but contrary to it Agriculture department has been entrusted with the job of licensing authority.
"To manage the pesticide industry in a better way, director horticulture Kashmir should be the licensing authority," a senior official said.
Fruit growers in Kashmir say their crops are under threat from spurious pesticides in circulation. The government agrees it is a matter of concern but points out that its role in the pesticides market is not a direct one beyond checking and licensing; private players handle the import.
"There is a dire need to check import of spurious pesticides and insecticides to Kashmir. These spurious chemicals have caused huge loss to our fruit growers, unfortunately the government has failed to act as a result of which poor farmers continue to suffer," said chairman Kashmir valley Fruit Growers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer.
A general opinion among the apple growers in Kashmir is that the pesticide dealers took full advantage of lockdown and sold the fake pesticides as there were no enforcement agencies around.
"The dealers made a killing as there was hardly any check on the sale of spurious pesticides due to the strict and protracted lockdown. We never saw any government team checking the pesticide dealers here", alleged Riyaz Ahmad, a well-heeled orchardist from Shopian town. Riyaz opined that the government must take samples from the pesticide warehouses to detect the fake pesticides before they could make their way into open markets and destroy the horticulture sector.
"We have requested authorities umpteen times to form flying squads to check the counterfeits, but our pleas always went unheeded", he added.