Apple: This year's inexpensive fruit

Apples contribute significantly to the J&K’s economy and is a source of livelihood for 15 lakh families by providing direct and indirect employment to approximately 50 lakh people annually. Among the temperate fruits, the cultivation of apple forms the predominated part of horticulture activity in the valley, contributing to an annual return of around Rs 7000 crores. However, this year the low productivity and irreparable damage of Apple continues to haunt the stakeholders.

After the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the agrarian activities coupled with bad weather conditions have led to such damage to fruit, by which the annual gross productivity has been quite declined, seems a low-key affair in the economy, which has received a deadly blow. The delay in spraying the pesticides, and the bad weather conditions have done a severe damage to annual productivity, besides the sub-standard pests are the main concerns; because of this fungal diseases have struck, and have destroyed the quality as well as quantity.

The growers in the valley are staring at a huge losses, about 50-60 per cent as the apple crop across the Valley has been hit by scab. As usual, by this time, farmers have picked their apples and packed them for the market. However, the rates are subsequently very low as of previous year as it seems that the buyers are not ready to buy B and C grade produce.

While the administration suggested people not to come out from their homes in view of pandemic, farmers didn’t get fungicides at the appropriate time to treat apple scab and other fungal diseases. The rains have additionally spoiled the quality of fruits. The hailstorm in the flowering season broke blossoms and unbroken pollinators, like bees and butterflies that dotted the hopes for a decent yield, even before the dry weather had returned. Meanwhile preliminary estimates have revealed that almost a fraction of the region’s total apple turnout got affected.

From North to South, local farmers are disappointed due to irreparable damage to their annual crop. Apple industry being a mainstay of Kashmir’s economy needs serious thought. This important sector of the economy needs to be promoted and developed scientifically, by way of tapping the resources in a proper and judicious manner, so as to increase the gross turnover. Because of population growth, and the purchasing power of people has increased, the demand for fruit in the present global market is bound to go up. To meet the future requirements, the productivity per hectare has to be increased through innovative and scientific methods, like use of high density plantation, modern technology in apple cultivation,  use standard pests and fertilizers by which the objective of better productivity can be achieved to a large extent. Meanwhile the administration has started a Marketing Intervention Scheme for orchardists, however the major produce of fruit had already been sold or placed in cold chambers. But the farmers call this move too late.