Save J&K’s Economy

The horticulture sector is a source of livelihood for about 43 lac people in Jammu and Kashmir
Save J&K’s Economy
"The Kashmir economy depends mostly on traditional form of occupation."Special arrangement

Jammu Kashmir is primarily an agrarian state with 70% of the work force directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for its livelihood. Horticulture is one of the main sectors that have a significant contribution to the overall SGDP.

The Kashmir economy depends mostly on traditional form of occupation.

Unaffected and unaltered by modern day industrial developments and changing times, the indigenous traditional occupations of farming, animal husbandry and horticulture, form the backbone of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

With the introduction of high-density apple orchards, that proved to be very beneficial for the development of this sector, enormous focus has been put on establishing more and high density orchards in the valley.

During the turbulent times, the state remained above water with its horticulture and handicraft sectors. Kashmir’s apple farmer worked his land no matter what the political, economic and social circumstances were.

They are of firm belief that this country is behind them and will never let them down. The apple farmers of Kashmir are making the dream of ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ true.

They work towards empowering people and use technology for increase in apple production so much that the Kashmiri apples should be seen in the markets right from Tokyo to Washington and Dubai to Australia.

Apple growers of Kashmir especially youth who prefer self-employment, and believe in the idea of ‘employment generators’ have indulged in the apple growing businesses, fruit production, storage, ripening and primary processing techniques in J&K.

They started the journey from being unemployed to self employed. When the apple growers and the persons associated with the business in Jammu Kashmir and Himachal are trying to gain the markets, all of a sudden, an Iranian incursion of apples into the Indian markets surfaced, leading to increase in concern and sufferings of apple growers, their stake in the field, employment and putting the economy in danger.

The Horticulture sector is a source of livelihood for about 43 lac population in Jammu and Kashmir. About nine lakh families are directly or indirectly involved and depend on this Sector.

From the production of 1.83 MTs in 1972-73 to the level of 24.94 LMTs with turnover of Rs. 6000.00 crore approximately during 2015-16, the sector provides jobs to other related trades such as fertiliser, pesticides, agriculture machinery, traders and processing of fruits, etc.

The variety of horticultural products of J&K has earned world-wide fame because of its good quality and taste. Pertinently the growth of horticulture sector can be attributed to various initiatives taken by the government including establishment of fruit mandis, latest technological support, research, introduction of new varieties, mechanisation etc.

This sector contributes immensely to strengthen the financial condition of the State, poverty alleviation, employment generation and is a core sector of Jammu and Kashmir agriculture.

In recent years, a significant increase in the standard of living of farmers and the workers was seen due to the momentum in profit of apple business and social development in Kashmir. This also created opportunities and developed much needed skills among population of Kashmir.

The farmers of the J&K during the times improved marketing connectivity with the mainland India. The only connect of a common farmer of Kashmir with Delhi is Azadpur Mandi. And with the import of Iranian apples, a fear is growing that this connection somehow maybe lost if necessary measures are not taken immediately.

Through this business, Kashmiri farmer was facilitated from mandis to potential domestic markets all over the country and also exports to other countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

India is one among the largest producers of quality apple followed by China, European Union and US. If the Azadpur mandi that is being seen as a platform for the Kashmiris to sell their products in the potential areas to avoid exploitation of the middleman and to connect with the Delhi to explore their own country is taken by Iranian apples, this will certainly have a long term relational repercussions.

This apple industry of Jammu and Kashmir is itself a Confidence Building Measure as all the mandis across India have apples of Kashmir in their stock.

Usually a person from outside J&K visits Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and other tourist known places for leisure and scenic beauty, but a business person visits to mandis in Pulwama, Sopore, Anantnag, Shopian and other places.

This process can be attributed to people to people connection across India that makes business with Kashmir through apple.

Government must understand that there is an urge for dignity, economic prosperity and social mobility. Over the years, Kashmiris have become very politically conscious and understand the nuances of each discourse.

The move of government by importing Iranian apples without taxes despite itself among the list of top producers of apples gives a feeling of defeat to Kashmiri produce, perpetuating their miseries by committing its share of mistakes.

The Kashmiri apple growers are not India’s enemy. Government must feel their pain and should understand the connect of Kashmiri farmers with mainland India through mandis of the country.

It has become more of an emotional problem than a geographical or economical one and government need to come forward to rescue their emotions. To fulfil the dream of Make in India, instead of importing apples, India needs to export them.

We need to promote our own agricultural products, not to remain dependent on imports. India is coming out of developing nations line to the row in developed nations and such policies can only fail their own countrymen.

Kashmiri saffron and other agriculture products are being found in world class markets, and the maximum economy share that apple production has is under severe threat.

It will lead to people’s anger and exploit their emotions and connect with Delhi. Government need to transcend cultural differences and respect the economical and emotional connect of Kashmiri apple growers with Delhi.

A letter by Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, an apex body of all fruit growers associations of Kashmir reads that more than 1.50 crore boxes of apple produce are stored in different cold stores.

Similarly, there are additional 1.50 crore boxes of apple in store that belong to small and marginal growers who expect that after the harvesting season is over, the produce stored will fetch reasonable process in the market.

But unfortunately, due to very low rates of Iranian apples, the apple growers of Kashmir are not able to sell their product in the market. The only solution that will work for the larger national interest is that there should be 100% import duty on Iranian apples or complete ban so that they do not dent the market of Himachal and JK apples.

This measure will only facilitate the local industry and that should be the priority of the government.

The Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha must intervene and use his personal clout with the Prime Minister and agricultural minister of India to save Kashmir’s economic back bone viz a viz 100% tax on Iranian apples or complete ban on them, and measures for exporting Kashmiri apples.

Umer Wani is US legislative Fellow-16 and UK Bridge Institutes Kalinga Fellow 2020.

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.

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