Srinagar, Sep 1: Due to unfavourable weather and scab disease, Kashmir's apple output is projected to plummet by almost 40 percent, leaving fruit producers distressed.
As a result of this year's inclement weather conditions and the development of the scab disease, apple harvesting has begun, but producers' excitement is absent.
Poor farmers have to shoulder the weight of significant losses without crop insurance and government minimum price support.
All Kashmir Fruit Growers Union President, Bashir Ahmad Basheer said, “This year's unseasonal rainfall in July, when the plants' buds were completely blooming, caused the scab disease to spread across the fruit trees. Despite the Horticulture Department’s instructions, the essential pesticides were used to combat the scab disease, but the flowered buds on the trees started to fall off significantly, which resulted in less production this year.”
He said that as per their preliminary estimates, there would be 40 percent less apple production this year.
“In absence of crop insurance, the burden of losses is on the shoulders of farmers,” Basheer said.
He said that there were many orchards in various areas of Kashmir that have limited produce this year.
Basheer said that the government should now ensure smooth movement of apple-laden trucks along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway so that fruit growers are able to sell their produce outside of J&K without difficulty.
According to experts, scab disease can reduce the quality and size of the fruit.
It can also cause premature fruit drop, defoliation, and poor development of fruit buds in the next season.
Under favourable conditions and without control measures, apple scab can cause total crop failure.
According to Sopore Fruit Mandi President, Fayaz Ahmad Malik, the government is not paying enough attention to the horticulture industry.
"Despite the farmers adhering to spray schedules advised by the relevant organisations, the scab disease ruined productivity. Since there are no instances of scab outbreaks even after pesticides, it appears that all phoney pesticides are poured into Kashmir,” he said. “Another issue is that the government advertises that a crop insurance programme would go into effect shortly. We have been hearing about it for over a decade yet the crop insurance is missing on the ground."
Malik said that the farmers would not have had to cover all losses themselves if there had been a crop insurance programme in place.
“By paying a premium, they could readily seek claims from the insurance companies in such dire situations,” he said.
A top official in the Horticulture Department confirmed that inclement weather and scab infections had contributed to a drop in productivity.
However, he said, “It is impossible to calculate losses this time. How much production has decreased this year compared to the previous few will be ascertained at the end of the harvest season.”
J&K, particularly Kashmir, has been described as the ‘land of fruits’ as well as the ‘fruit bowl’ of North India.
Horticulture is an essential contributor to SGDP with a share of about 9.5 percent.
The fruit business affects about 7 lakh families who are directly or indirectly involved with the trade.
Each year, 8.50 crore man-days are generated through horticulture in J&K.