Anantnag: Apple farmers have demanded that the individual schemes regarding high density orchards should be implemented by the Horticulture department and should not be handed over to private individuals or companies.
Demand was raised in the day-long conference of Apple Farmers' Federation of Kashmir (AFFK) at Dak bungalow Anantnag with a call to ‘Save Apple, Save Kashmir’, on Saturday.
The conference was presided over by Ghulam Hassan Ganie, a Kisan leader. One of the specially stressed resolutions in the conference related to the introduction and expansion of high-density apple varieties. “The apple orchardists, who opt for such (high-density orchard) schemes, should be provided a loan with subsidy in advance so that more and more farmers can opt for this profitable scheme,” the participants demanded.
Earlier, the conference began by condoling the sad demise of trade union leaders Gh Hassan Harga and Abdul Rashid Dada, who passed away recently.
The conference discussed several issues confronting the apple economy. These issues included dwindling prices; lack of state support leading to increased input costs; stagnation in productivity; the necessity for adequate and subsidized cold chain infrastructure and the impact of extreme climatic disturbances like hailstorms.
While inaugurating the conference, veteran Kisan leader Ghulam Nabi Malik expressed serious concern over the plight of orchardists in the region. He said, “Apple growers have been neglected by the government despite the major chunk of the population being dependent on this sector. The amendments to the land laws have created uncertainty and distress among the poor peasant community.”
Ex-MLA Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, while addressing the conference, said, “Apple is the important crop that provides livelihood to thousands of households and contribute 8 percent of the GDP of J&K as per the Economic Review of 2017-18 but apple farmers are facing severe distress due to lack of remunerative price. 95 percent of apples used to be consumed as fruit and currently there is an insignificant share of processing and value addition in this sector.”
He further said that the major issue confronting the farmers in the apple industry at present was the denial of remunerative price. “Around 30 percent of the production is wasted or spoiled at different stages due to non-availability of storage facilities with small and middle farmers,” Tarigami noted with concern.
Demands put forth in the conference included 100 percent import duty on foreign apple; provision of fertilizers and pesticides at cheap and subsidized rates to apple farmers; GST to be removed from all kinds of products related to the apple industry; construction of cold stores at every apple producing block so that the apple could be despatched to the markets in installments and not in a way which would flood the markets and reduces the prices.
It was impressed that the market intervention scheme, which was stopped, should be reviewed from the current apple harvesting season so that small farmers could sell their produce at reasonable prices.
Among the several resolutions, the conference demanded that hassle-free movement of apple laden trucks on National Highway from Kashmir to different mandis of the country should be given top priority. It was sought that the marketing of spurious pesticides, fungicides, other chemicals and fertilizers should be stopped altogether. In this connection, a laboratory for testing these chemicals and fertilizers must be established by the Horticulture department, the participants demanded.