Declining produce, low rates, costly 'sub-standard pesticides' shatter farmers' dreams

Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/13/2021 12:54:01 AM

Kashmir's apple industry facing official neglect

ANANTNAG, Sep 11: As apple harvesting season begins in Kashmir valley, the low rates for the fruit in Indian and local mandis has once again left the apple growers disappointed.
Though the harvesting for the widely grown delicious variety of the fruit begins in September but many varieties are harvested from mid-August only. These varieties for its quality and colour are always in high demand in the market and sell at higher rates.
However, this year these varieties were sold at much lower rates than previous year in the local and outside fruit markets causing disappointment to the farmers who work hard throughout the year to ensure the quality produce.
"Each box of Gala variety of apple last year was being sold at 1800 to 2000 rupees in outside mandis but this year the rates for the same variety have gone down by 1000 rupees We put our blood and sweat in taking care of our apple orchards all the year expecting good returns but when the harvesting season comes the low market shatters our dreams and expectations," said an orchardist, Abdul Rashid.
The low rates for the high-quality Gala varieties, farmers say will determine the rates for the hugely grown delicious variety as well.
"Now the harvesting season for delicious apple grown in abundance in the valley is about to start but we are worried about the market being down. Usually, farmers anticipate good profits during harvesting season of their produce but this year the enthusiasm is missing. You will see gloom on the face of farmers due to low rates. In view of the lesser produce this year, farmers were expecting good rates for their crop but it all goes against their expectations," said another, orchardist, Mohammad Yunus.
What leaves the farmers fuming is that the rates for their produce are fixed by the outside Mandis in the absence of any support by the local authorities.
"What is ironical is that we spend day and night in our orchards throughout the year but at the time of harvest, the rates for our produce are fixed by the people in outside Mandis who have no idea what it takes to prepare an apple box," said a grower and apple trader, Ali Mohammad.
He cited the official apathy as the reason for the apple industry dying with every passing year.
"Due to the less production for last several years and the low rates for the fruit, farmers are even unable to clear their debt on account of fertilisers, pesticides, apple boxes, modern farming tools and labor. The government is non-serious to the hilt in uplifting the fruit industry, the backbone of economy in the valley," Ali said.
The government, a group of farmers lamented has failed to curb the sub-standard pesticides and hike in their prices.
"Lot of sub-standard pesticides are available in the market but government has failed to curb its sale and act against the wrong doers," a group of farmers said.
Though the authorities in 2012 had laid the foundation stone for India's largest 'state of the art fruit market' in Jablipora Bijbehara raising the hopes of fruit growers that it will further the price of their produce.
However, nine years have elapsed, the fruit terminal is far from completion.
"Had the government made this fruit terminal functional it would have attracted exporters from all states of the country for its ideal location between 'four lane highway and railway station. But the fruit market remaining incomplete for nine years speaks of the seriousness of the authorities in promoting this industry. It seems that the local authorities deliberately want outside Mandis to fix the rates for our produce," the farmers rued.
Top officials of the planning and marketing wing of horticulture could not be reached for their version despite repeated calls.



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