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Apple farmers in IIOJK panic as bumper crop, lack of cold storage drive the price down

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IIOJK: The bumper harvest of apples this year in the valley brought cheer to the apple farmers in Kashmir valley but now they are considering it one of their worst years in terms of profitability. With the prices plummeting by over 50 per cent and no place to store the crop, the apple farmers of the valley are worried sick.

The apple farmers are getting 50-60 per cent lower prices than what they managed last year. The farmers say the demand for Kashmiri apples in the market has come down which has become a worry for the majority of apple growers in the Kashmir valley.

“We face a lot of problems like cold storage. Main cold storage facilities get booked in advance and due to the bumper crop, the growers were left with no option of storing their crop. It’s still lying outside and farmers don’t know what to do with it. There was an issue with the national highway as well. And when all this crop reached the ‘mandi’ (market), there was a dip in prices,” said Shahid Chaudhary, general secretary, New Kashmir Fruit Association.

“In a ‘Mandi’ which gets 50-100 trucks daily, over 150 trucks arrived and that eventually lead to dip in rates. We have been asking the government for more cold storage units. We have very less cold storage, we have requested the government time and again. There should be mini cold storages in small villages too,” added Chaudhary.

One of the reasons for the dip in the rates of Kashmiri apples has also been the apples from Iran. The import of Iranian apples to India has affected the market of all the apple-producing states in the North of India, including Kashmir.

The apple growers and associations have requested the central government to stop the import of Iranian apples so that the market of home-grown apples is not affected.

“The Irani apples have ruined our market. We have asked central government to ban Iranian apples as it has affected our market. One of the reasons for dip in the rates of the Kashmiri apple is due to the Iranian apples,” said Chaudhary.

Kashmir region has around 700,000 families associated with horticulture. And Apple is one of the major contributors towards the GDP of Jammu and Kashmir. With 3.5 million people associated with the apple industry, its contribution to the union territory’s GDP is nearly eight per cent. According to data, there has been a 15-20 per cent increase in production this season.

“We had a bumper crop this year but there was a dip in the rates of the apples this year. The expenditure on boxes, fertilisers and pesticides has been more this year but rates have gone down. We are getting 300-400 rupees less this year per box as compared to last year. Iranian apples have impacted our market a lot, not only Kashmiri apples but also all other states in India. We have time and again asked the government for stopping the import of Iranian apples,” said Bashir Ahmad, an apple agriculturist.