The apple trade in Kashmir continues to be badly hit due to low rates in the markets outside. The discouraging market trends are directly impacting the scene on the ground. This has slowed down the pace of traders buying apple from growers.
Most growers say that they are not getting buyers for their produce. As the harvesting is nearing its end, things are becoming difficult for them.
The mercury level is dipping and the fear of snowfall is giving sleepless nights to the growers. Presently, they are busy trying to stock the apple at safer places after harvesting so that the fruit is not damaged in case of a snowfall. A number of growers are not getting such safe places.
The packaging material becoming costlier has added to the woes of the growers. There are also reports of shortage of the material in several areas.
Reports say that this year there is bumper apple crop. But low rates played the spoilsport. Apple was ready to go to outside markets one month earlier than the scheduled time due to early harvesting season.
This year Kashmir witnessed early end to winter conditions leading to early blooming of trees and early resumption of horticulture and agriculture related activities. Subsequently, Kashmiri apple arrived in markets when the Himachal Pradesh (HP) apple was still there.
Usually, every year apple from here would reach the market once the harvesting and sale of HP apple was almost over.
The entry of apple from Iran, Afghanistan and some other countries also put a tough competition. The apple traders here allege that Iranian apple reaches Indian market illegally via Afghanistan and is duty free.
They say it is one of the main reasons for the falling prices of Kashmiri apple. In fact they had raised the issue at various levels with the government and demanded their intervention.
But till now there is no headway in the matter. Now the apple sector going through a bad time, it is the duty of apple growers, traders, and government authorities to see what is going wrong.
They should try to find out ways so that this sector does not suffer again. Kashmir cannot afford mishandling of apple related matters.
Because, apple trade continues to be the backbone of the local economy. A revenue of almost Rs 8,000 crore is said to be generated annually in this sector.
Thirty lakh people are directly or indirectly associated with apple growing and its trade.
Twenty lakh metric tonnes of apple are produced at an average every year in Kashmir and this year the production was more. Government has a responsibility towards further strengthening this trade.