Shopian, Sep 16: A sudden pitter-patter of rain and hailstones woke NayeemWani up from his sleep late Saturday night.
He immediately looked out the window and saw ice-pellets bouncing after striking the ground.
Soon the cries began emanating from the neighbourhood with people praying for the hailstorm to stop. For at least 15 to 20 minutes, the chickpea sized hailstone continued to lash the sleepy Kutpora village, 4 km from south Kashmir’s Shopian town, spelling doom for thick apple farms.
According to Wani, who is also the village head, the hailstorm damaged around 60 to 70 percent crop in the village.
More than 95 percent of the people cultivate different varieties of apples in the village, comprising around 200 households.
“Apple is the only major crop we cultivate,” Wani said.
He said that the farmers cried on seeing hailstorm shattering their dreams.
Apart from Kutpora, the hailstorm lashed apple-rich villages of Nadigam, Tashloo, Manzimpora, and Dugpora.
The farmers from these villages pegged the damage at 60 to 70 percent.
Gulzar Ahmad, an affected farmer said that the hailstones stripped the trees of their leaves and inflicted bruises on the surface of the fruit.
“The hailstorm has left the entire fruit belt distraught,” he said.
Ahmad said that it was at least the third time when the district experienced such a devastating hailstorm.
The district is known for producing first-rate apples and more than 80 percent of the people rely on the fruit industry for their livelihood.
The apple farmers were already grappling with losses due to weather vagaries and perennial disruptions on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway while the recent decision of the government to reduce the tariff on apples imported from the US enhanced their distress.
Apple Farmers’ Federation of India, Jammu and Kashmir, President, Zahoor Ahmad Rather demanded assessment of damage and immediate compensation to the affected farmers.
Senior CPI (M) leader Muhammad YousufTarigami took to X and wrote: “Hailstorm spelt doom for apple farmers in multiple villages of Shopian. According to the cultivators, ice pellets have caused over 60 percent damage to the crop. Requesting @OfficeOfLGJandK to assess the damage and provide adequate compensation to the affected farmers.”
A senior horticulture official said that a team had been dispatched to the area to assess the loss.
“The team will submit its report by Sunday,” he said.