Shopian: Ali Muhammad was looking forward to a bumper crop this year but a hailstorm of few minute shattered all his dreams rather in a jiffy. "The hailstones completely devastated my small apple farm", says Muhammad.
Muhammad , a resident of Sarbal , an idyllic village, some 12 kilometres from south Kashmir's Shopian district, is a small farmer, who lives off the land.
On May 25, a hailstorm, which lasted for around 10 to 15 minutes spelt a doom for apple orchards in upper reaches of south Kashmir's Shopian district, leaving hundreds of farmers distraught.
According to the farmers , it hailed in more than half a dozen villages including Sarbal, Devpora, Chanchimarg, Sedow, Chotipoara Adingtarazi and Krachpathri villages, causing huge damage to apple orchards and other standing crops.
Mohammad Sharif, a resident of Devpora village said that at least 80 to 90 percent of the crop was damaged in their area.
Sharif said that they belonged to marginalised Gujjar community and farming was the only source of their livelihood.
"We are poor people and the hailstorm has left us in dire straits", Sharif said.
Many farmers from the villages like Krachpathri and Chanchimarg said that they wouldn't be able to even recoup the production costs.
"We have spent thousands of rupees on pesticides and fertilizers, but the crop damaged due to hail stones will not fetch us enough money to pay the production cost ", said a distraught farmer from Krachpathri.
The farmers in the apple rich district have been grappling with the losses for the past several years.
In 2018 and 2019, an early snowfall caused unprecedented damage to apple orchards. In 2020, the protracted lock down also affected the apple prices incurring huge losses to the farmers. Last year, the untimely snowfall also wreaked havoc with the apple orchards.
Chief Horticulture Officer Shopian, Muhammad Ramzan War told Greater Kashmir that the department was assessing the damage.
He, however, estimated the damage up to 50 percent.
"In some villages only scant percentage of crop, not more than 2 percent, While in other area the damage is nearly 50 percent," added the official. The affected farmers have demanded compensation for the loss of their crops.