With Kashmiri apple facing lot of competition in markets outside there is an immediate need to make the local apple qualitative better to meet the new challenge.
There is immediate requirement that horticulture department plays a key role in this direction by guiding and providing the expert advice to the fruit growers.
According to growers, there continues to be a communication disconnect between the officials of horticulture department and them. There should be a regular interaction between the two sides to make quality and quantity of apple better.
The horticulture department must take a cue from their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh, where the farmers and officials have better interaction and understanding. The feedback by the two sides to each other helps the apple growers in a big way there.
Quality of the apple has to be made better. Despite a bumper crop this year, the apple growers in Kashmir are unhappy with the low rates they are being offered by the buyers (traders) right now. The buyers say the rates are low due to tough competition in the markets outside, which are now being flooded by the apple from Iran, and some other countries also.
Right now the apple from Himachal Pradesh is making a strong presence in the markets outside. The apple harvesting season in South Kashmir will begin shortly. Amid the low rates the growers are showing reluctance to strike business deals with the buyers and want the rates to go up first.
They say if the rates do not increase, the growers will suffer huge losses. Arrival of Iranian apple in Indian markets was a cause of concern for the apple growers and traders in Kashmir for last several years. It has affected the demand of Kashmiri apple and rates outside.
The Iranian apple comes via Afghanistan and is duty free. They are giving a stiff competition to Kashmiri apple. There is a demand by the growers and traders here that entry of Iranian apple via Afghanistan must be stopped as it is illegal.
They have already written to central government in this regard. To avail zero duty under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) pact, the apple from Iran are being brought into India via Afghanistan. SAFTA is an agreement between eight South Asian countries.
Afghanistan and India are members of SAFTA and do not impose duty on certain imports from each other. Iran is not part of SAFTA and apples from that country reach India via Afghanistan, bypassing import duties.
There is also a view among fruit growers here that one cannot stop the arrival of apple from other countries into Indian markets and growers have to raise the quality of the apple.
For that it needs more dedication of farmers towards apple production and expert advice from the department of horticulture. The horticulture department must play a pro-active role and be in regular touch with growers to guide them and provide expert advice so that the quality of apple is improved, and it is able to compete in outside markets in a better way.