2-day national conference of apple farmers concludes

Farmers throng Shopian despite bad weather
Representational Image
Representational ImageFile: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Shopian: Despite awful weather, hundreds of apple cultivators on Sunday streamed into a rough playfield near Shirmal village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district to participate in a public rally organised by the Apple Farmers' Federation of India (AFFI) as part of its first two-day national conference.

Since morning, apple farmers from various outlying villages of Kashmir made a beeline for the venue, waving white flags with images of ruby-red apples emblazoned on them.

Although the organisers had erected a canopy for the participants, the rainwater within minutes almost swarmed the entire ground. However, it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the farmers who were all ears till the last speaker ended his speech.

Addressing the rally, senior CPI (M) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami said that the hopes of lakhs of farmers were tied to the apple economy.  

“Be it the education of their children or their marriage, apples are only the only hope of our farming community," Tarigami said. He said that this community demanded nothing but a fair price for their hard harvested produce.

Tarigami said that there were no cold storage facilities available for the small cultivators.

“The produce of our marginal growers do not find a place in cold storages as these facilities are being used by the rich and privileged people," he said.

Tarigami said that the small growers had to sell their produce for a song, as they could not wait for the market to improve in absence of CA storage facilities

He upbraided the government for its failure to implement the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission vis-à-vis minimum support price.

Tarigami said that there were no checks on the companies, which manufactured the spurious fertilizers and pesticides.

"These fake products do more harm than good to our orchards," he said.

Tarigami sought the support from the farmers of the country in favour of the demands of Kashmiri apple cultivators.

“We won't beg before this government. We seek the support of the country's hard working farmers, who spurred this government to withdraw the contentious farming laws,” he said.

Appealing to the farmers to unite for a common cause, Tarigami said that the farmers should come together and fight for the protection of the declining apple industry.

He appealed to the government to waive off the KCC loan of the debt-ridden farmers.

President All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Ashok Dhawale said that the apple farmers were forced to sell their harvest at dirt-cheap prices.

"Over the past few years, the prices of our produce has declined despite the jacked up input costs of fertilizers, pesticides, labour, and other things,” he said.

Blaming the government for deliberately crushing the apple economy, Dhawale alleged that the apple-laden trucks from Kashmir were deliberately halted along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway to benefit the big corporate houses and imported produce.

He said that the recent decision of the government to remove the import duty on Washington apples would hit the domestic growers.

Dhawale said that the motive of forming the AFFI was to bring together the apple cultivators from all apple producing states to safeguard their interests.

During the conference, an 11-member state committee was also constituted.

Zahoor Ahmad Rather was elected as the president of the committee.

Rather said that a host of issues confronting the apple farmers were discussed and a detailed report in this regard was presented during the conference.

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