Srinagar, Dec 24: The central government has stated that the bountiful harvest and repairs to the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which occasionally slowed down traffic, are the main causes of the decline in Kashmiri apple prices.
Union Minister for Agriculture and Family Welfare, NarendraTomar in a written reply in the upper house stated that: “as per information received from Jammu and Kashmir, the rates/prices are governed by many factors like supply and demand. This year, the apple crop is having a bumper harvest and due to warm weather, the marketing of fruit has been advanced by some days, as a result, unregulated/more supply in the mandies caused a drop in the prices of apples. The National Highway is under construction and on a few occasions, the traffic gets halted which also has some impact on prices.”
“As regards cold storage facilities, the government is putting all efforts to create more cold storage infrastructure in the UT. At present, 2.83 lakh MT cold storage capacity is created under various Government schemes in Jammu & Kashmir.”
“Post the abrogation of Article 370, twenty-one Cold Storages with a capacity of 99,555 MT have been constructed in the UT. National Highway gets damaged or broken due to natural calamities, hence it is repaired from time to time due to which the traffic gets halted,” the reply reads.
It further states that the government of Jammu and Kashmir reported that no proposal is under consideration by the government.
The 295-kilometre-long national highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar to the rest of India is Kashmir’s primary road link. Before reaching the Jammu lowlands, it winds through the PirPanjal Himalayas. The roadway is crucial for guaranteeing the flow of supplies and goods into and out of the Valley. It transports the apple produce out of the Valley and into markets outside of it from September through November.
According to official estimates, the local economy of Kashmir depends heavily on the apple industry, which provides a living for almost 3.5 million Kashmiris. There will always be a public uproar in the Valley when there is a problem with the apple trade.
The price crash brought on by the import of apples has played a significant role in the diminishing returns of the apple crop. The East Fruit Information and Analytics Platform estimate that India’s imports of apples have increased and will surpass 400 metric tonnes in 2020–21.
The Iranian apple, which Kashmiri apple growers claim is “illegally” transported into India, has recently competed with Kashmiri apples for market share. Even though Kashmir produces more than 75% of all the apples in India, the Iranian apple has the potential to further erode Kashmir’s profitability.
In the Union Budget from the previous year, finance minister NirmalaSitharaman suggested levying a 35 percent Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess on apples. However, there was no cess imposed on domestic apple production.
More than three million people work in horticulture in Kashmir, which covers 1.87 lakh acres of land and generates more than Rs 10,000 crore for the area. The crop lost the most during the two years that followed the cancellation of Article 370. The communication blockade, security lockdown, and subsequent Covid-19 lockdowns gave the sector a fatal blow.