This year has been harsh for everyone, and especially Kashmir. Kashmir witnessed a full-scale lockdown, early snowfall, no rainfall in the autumn season, and at last sale of fake pesticides. These all misfortunes were enough to cause a huge loss to the apple industry in Kashmir. Farmers who grow fruit have suffered huge losses this year even ranging upto 80%.
In the orchards of Budgam district, most of the products have been spoiled because of the use of substandard pesticides. Another contributor to these losses has been low or no rainfalls as a result of which, dust produced has caused damage to the products. Unlike past years, top quality apples are rarely available in the markets of Budgam district this year.
Apple producers feel that they have to sell their products to the hawkers in bulk as these products can’t go outside in packs. In Jammu and Kashmir, apples are harvested on 164,742 hectares of land. Every year, it produces over 1.8 million metric tons of the product. The apple industry in Jammu and Kashmir is worth around Rs 8,000-9,000 crore.
It also contributes to the employment of the people involved. Kashmir is well-known for its apple production and accounts for 75% of the total apple production in India.
Farmers allege that during the lockdown, traders sold cheap quality pesticides which resulted in spoil of almost 80% of the total apple production. It is very bad for their businesses as the farmers are already suffering from the losses of lockdown. Even local contractors who take apple orchards from the farmers on an annual basis have suffered too.
A survey by agriculture economist Farhat Shaheen and his colleagues at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) noted that apple harvests are down by about 40% this year. General secretary of the Kashmir Vegetable Dealers Association, Mehraj-u-Din Nath said that drought destroyed more than 60% of the summer vegetable crop this year.
According to the regional government’s 2016-17 economic survey, about 40% of the population of Kashmir i.e., more than thirty lakh people earn their living directly or indirectly by horticulture. Around half of Kashmir’s land is covered by apple trees as it is a major source of income for people.