Shopian: "My sleep is fitful and often I rise from my bed and think about the declining prices of apples in fruit mandis across the country," says Muhammad Yousuf, an apple grower and trader from south Kashmir's Shopian district.
A sharp downturn in apple markets across the country has begun gnawing at fruit growers and traders here.
According to the farmers, the apples imported from Iran have resulted in the decline of prices for home-grown produce.
Yousuf said that an apple carton weighing 16 kg presently sells at Rs 700 to Rs 900, which account for 30 to 40 percent drop in the normal pricing.
"The prices have plummeted significantly as the Irani apples started flooding the mandis", He said.
Yousuf has stocked around 15,000 apple boxes in local cold storage in last October and November, hoping to sell them at better prices in next January. However, the steep drop in the prices due to imports from Iran has started making him fidgety.
" We pay Rs 30 to 32 a month as cold storage charge per apple kg and if the market does not improve, we won't be able to even recoup the production costs", Yousuf said.
At present around, 2 lakh metric tonne of apples are lying in different cold storages across the Valley and the farmers fear heavy losses in case the import of apples continue to pour into Indian markets.
"We will have to sell our produce at dirt cheap rates if the government does not stop such imports", said Muhammad Ashraf, a fruit grower from Shopian town.
Ashraf said that the apple rich regions of India including J & K and Himachal Pradesh produce enough crops to meet domestic needs.
"I don't think there is any need to import apples from other countries", said Ashraf.
He, however, said that they were not against importing the fruit from other countries but "they are demanding duty on such imports".
"The government must stop the illegal imports and impose custom duty and heavy Cess on the products imported from other countries like Iran", Ashraf said.
Many apple traders told Greater Kashmir that they had been grappling with losses since 2019 due to long-drawn-out lockdowns and low market prices.
They said that if the market did not improve in the coming weeks it would be another bad year for the apple industry.