Shopian, July 12: Three large flex hoardings erected near Shirmal village, right across the gurgling Rambiara stream in south Kashmir Shopian town announce the holding of the first national conference of apple growers in the area.
The apple-rich town is hosting a two-day conference on July 15 and 16 with a rallying cry: "Save Apple Farmers, Save Apple Economy".
The growers from different apple-producing states of the country are expected to attend the conference.
The conference is being organised by the Apple Farmers' Federation of India ( AFFI) in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Kisaan Tehreek.
"Hundreds of delegates from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are expected to attend the conference", an organiser told Greater Kashmir.
He said that the conference has elicited much interest and excitement among the growers from apple-rich areas of the Valley.
The AFFI was born out of a national workshop held in Srinagar last year. Besides apple cultivators from J & K and Himachal Pradesh, experts from top-tier universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Central University of Temperate Horticulture, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Central University of Kashmir participated in the workshop.
The farmers' conference is being organised close on the heels of the reduction of 20 percent import duty on the Washington apples. The decision, many believe, is bound to impact the premium apples produced by Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
The apple growers in the Valley have been facing a host of issues for decades and the small land-holding farmers, sometimes, are unable to recoup the input costs.
The jacked-up prices of fertilizers, apple boxes and other allied materials are throwing new challenges to the apple cultivators.
"Apple growers are facing challenges on multiple counts. Sometimes they have to sell their produce at dirt cheap prices, which directly affect around 8 lakh households involved in the apple cultivation", said the organiser.
He said that the apple growers were converging to discuss a flurry of problems faced by them and would try to find out the ways for their redressal.
President All India Kissan Sabha ( AIKS) Ashok Dhawale, senior CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, Rakesh Sinha, former MLA, Himachal Pradesh, Vijoo Krishnan, secretary AIKS and P. Krishnaprasad, finance secretary AIKS will be the key speakers.