Srinagar: A delegation of Apple Farmers Federation met Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and submitted a memorandum of demands of apple growers at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar on Wednesday.
An official spokesman in a statement issued here said that the delegation of apple farmers led by Apple Farmers’ Federation of India, J&K Committee, President, Zahoor Ahmad Rather called on the LG and apprised him about the issues concerning the apple growers.
The delegation also comprised of the federation’s secretary Abdul Rashid Itoo.
The official spokesman said that the LG gave a patient hearing to the delegation and assured them that concerns of the apple growers would be taken care of.
The memorandum read that they wish to bring to the LG’s notice the calamity that awaits the apple growers of J&K this marketing season due to the suspension of the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) by the Centre.
“The MIS played an important role in procuring inferior quality C-grade apples in Kashmir since 2017, when the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) first launched the scheme,” the memorandum read.
It said that this year, the J&K administration had discontinued it for the current marketing season, causing much worry among the growers.
“Every year there are visuals of this culled fruit being dumped on highways and rivers, as the procurement under MIS is anyways a small portion of the total produce and most growers have no other avenue to sell their C-grade apples. This year, with even this support mechanism gone, there will be no floor prices and traders will force the growers to sell at throwaway rates. But the impending impact of the withdrawal of MIS can only be really understood after taking into account the condition of this year’s apple crop in J&K,” the memorandum read.
It read that as per different media reports and information relayed by apple growers in Kashmir to them, inclement weather since July had curtailed yields severely.
“First, there was unseasonal rainfall in July when the plants’ buds were completely blooming. Finding conducive conditions, the dormant scab disease spread across the fruit trees causing flowered buds to fall off significantly. Then, a prolonged dry spell in the crucial months of August and September has negatively affected the size and colour of the apples, reducing their competitive edge in the open market. While those farmers who had the capacity to move to high-density orchards were somewhat saved, most farmers with traditional orchards are suffering. There are reports of dwarf apples falling off wilted trees,” the memorandum read.
It read that the cumulative effect had been the reduction of total yield by 40 to 50 percent, which was a drop-in yield by 1 million metric tonnes or more.
“But what is even more concerning is that a larger portion of this year’s produce is turning out to be inferior C-grade culled fruit. So, while the reduction in supply of quality apples may lead to increase in their market prices, there will be no takers for the flood of culled fruit entering the markets,” the memorandum read.
It read that a similar situation had also developed in Himachal Pradesh, with incessant rains and hailstorms damaging the apple crop.
“However, the State government through its procurement agencies of HPMC have declared that the culled fruit would be procured at Rs 12 per kilo. This scheme, if implemented in scale, will reduce the burden of apple growers,” the memorandum read.
It read that under the prevailing circumstances, the AFFI demands: “The administration of J&K revitalises the MIS and procures a significant part of the culled fruit at a remunerative price in the 2023-24 marketing season. The administration through J&K HPMC involves growers in value addition activities involved in processing culled fruit into apple fruit juice, jams, pickles, breads, etc on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh.”
The memorandum read that the administration should implement the Crop Insurance Scheme (CIS) forthwith.
It read that the launch of an inquiry on the failure of the J&K Horticulture Department in establishing adequate weather stations could communicate the spread of scab disease from one region to another.
“Revert the reduction of import tariff on Washington apples and impose 100% import duty to safeguard apple growers of the country. Regulation of freight charges on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh. We suggest this job may kindly be entrusted to concerned Deputy Communisers for framing rates,” the memorandum read.