BY DR. NAQEEB RAJA
Apple production is predominant activity in districts of Baramulla, Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Budgam, Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kupwara in Kashmir province.
Kashmir Valley individually exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple annually and produces 75 percent of India’s total apple produce.
Only, horticulture sector individually is worth approx. Rs. 8000 to Rs. 9000cr and as per latest official data, Apple industry provides jobs to about 3.5 million people and contributes about ten percent of the UT’s GDP.
Amidst having the booming apple production in Kashmir this season (2022) failed badly to cherish apple growers because their produce was being sold at nearly 30 per cent lower rates than last year (2021).
“Kashmiri-Apple” hogged the headlines in the month of September after an uproar over frequent disruption in transportation from orchards to markets outside the UT-Kashmir, including Azadpur Mandi which is Asia’s largest wholesale market.
Despite having quality bumper crop this season the expenses like packaging and transportation charges have almost doubled compared to last year. The rates being directly linked to the supply and demand, the product rate got down by about 30 per cent.
Also, the frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway due to landslides during the peak harvesting season and stranding of fruit-laden trucks for days together had its worst impact too which resulted in the untimely supply of the rotten produce to the mandis.
The official concerned authorities can come forward to ease this menace otherwise it will be very hard and difficult in coming years to overcome situations like these and if the horticulture industry will cripple it will leave its dark effects on the GDP too.
So, it is the humanitarian and duty of every concerned authority personnel in power to safeguard Growers by providing subsidies on the products used in packaging, good quality cardboards can be provided, transportation charges can be fixed and taxes on trucks transporting fruit can be abolished.
Furthermore, the construction of macadamized roads covering all orchards for fruit transportation can do wonders, setting up of controlled atmosphere (CA) cold stores at the village level and encouraging farmers to install the latest machinery for grading can help the apple growers to overcome losses.
Also, the reason was lack of scientific advisory not taken into consideration by the respected apple growers of Kashmir valley resulting in low quality produce.
But, we can substantially improve the quality of production of existing orchards by focusing on a few important issues which are the main causes of low quality produce.
Top priority must be pollination management; sufficient pollination not only increases fruit set but also has a great impact on quality as well. Diversity in planting material in an orchard also suppresses pests.
During the field visits, interaction with farmers and through farmers feedback I came to the conclusion that majority of farmers don’t have a proper understanding of compatibility of pollinizers in their orchards and their role in fruit set and quality and same is true with pollinators like bees.
Indiscriminate use of chemicals is one among reason for the suppressed population of pollinators which once again is due to lack of awareness, or some times for want of getting more at any cost without understanding the repercussions.
We must have a strong focus on pollination and canopy management. Correcting these two aspects, in my opinion will give a boost to quality production even in the traditional orchards.
And special thanks to the efforts of SKUAST-Kashmir and ISAP (Kissan First Project-Parivathan) which is seriously focusing on canopy management and is conducting many awareness cum training programmes through Farmer Producer Organisations and Krishi Vigyan Kendras established in each district of Kashmir Valley.
Dr. Naqeeb Raja, Subject Matter Specialist-ISAP
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.