Is Kashmir’s fruit economy on the brink and staring at an abyss


Is Kashmir’s fruit economy on the brink and staring at an abyss

Special Correspondent HT

Scores of fruit growers expressed grave concerns over the shrinking of Kashmir's fruit economy! They have their reasons for saying so!


-‘Actually, they didn't have chocolate in ancient Greece, but Aphrodite was fond of apples. That was her sacred fruit, maybe because it was pretty and sweet, just like her’! That is the reason why people in Kashmir are sweet and innocent because more than chocolates they love apples’!


The fruit growers were wrong in no way as this is a reality as the fruit growers are facing a lot of problems! Maybe the department, I mean the horticulture has laid out the best plans but it is the execution that matters on the ground. It is the apple growers who have to take care of the orchards and not the officials of the department as they are not the ones growing the fruits. They (department officials) are there to assist the growers and not be parasites on them which by the look of things and the uttering’s of the orchard owners is fairly indicative and reflective!’


-‘Like any other thing the apples to have a history. The original wild ancestor of Malus Domestica was Malus sieversii, found growing wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and northwestern China. Cultivation of the species, most likely beginning on the forested flanks of the Tian Shan mountains, progressed over a long period and permitted secondary introgression of genes from other species into the open-pollinated seeds. Significant exchange with Malus sylvestris, the crab apple, resulted in current populations of apples being more related to crabapples than to the more morphologically similar progenitor Malus sieversij. An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus Domestica). Apple trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe and were brought to North America by European colonists.’!


-‘Kashmir proudly known as the paradise of the earth is also home to temperate fruits like apples for which the state is very famous across the globe. The main factor which influences temperate fruit-bearing trees is soil, climate and environment which are highly favourable and unparalleled in the province of Kashmir. Apple (Malus pumila) is commercially the most important temperate fruit and is fourth among the most widely produced fruits in the world after banana, orange and grapes. Man has very little control over nature, especially factors like the climatic conditions which influence the geographic distribution of various kinds and varieties of temperate fruits. Although apple can be grown in all temperate regions including both the northern and the southern hemisphere it is not possible in the tropical climate of South Asia.’!


-‘Kashmir has a distinct identity of having an unbroken historical record for its temperate weather conditions from early days to the present period. It is believed that things which are difficult to get even in heavens like lofty houses, saffron (crocus), grapes, icy water and apples are easily available here. The freely available fruits of the state form an important part of the diet of the people!’


-‘There are a lot of mentions about the Kashmir apple in history where the famous Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang who travelled to Kashmir has


made a mention of various temperate fruits like Pears, wild plum, the peach, the apricot, grapes and apples. The breathtaking beauty of the valley of Kashmir and its temperate fruits like apples have been complimented by people from different areas including writers and travellers belonging to different ages and nationalities. Kashmir is a fertile valley rich with fruits and grain and its lakes and springs. It has been considered from time immemorial that planting any fruit or nut tree is sacred here in Kashmir’!.


-‘Long before the Moguls (16th Century), the Shamir rulers had laid out gardens and orchards in the valley. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin "Budshah" (1420- 1470AD) imported many fruit grafts for furtherance during his reign along with the art of grafting from Central Asia. There is a lot of historical evidence that states that the valley of Kashmir in the Himalayas is rich in apple, pome, nut fruits and grapes. Modern cultivators of fruit trees consider apples have an origin starting from the temperate zone of Britain in the northwest to the Himalayas in the Southeast which accounts for a very vast area!


-‘Many times I feel that the world would be a different place if Adam was allergic to apples. He wasn’t and so are we the humans living in the world especially in Jammu and Kashmir. But there is a problem as far as the fruit growers go in Kashmir and the same needs to be checked into by the UT administration this in the script which I have written is all that the apple grower in the valley had to say and that too emphatically as well as vociferously!’


-‘Believe it or not, apples (genus Malus) are related to roses and the apple trees do not need the fruit that it produces. Yet, it gives the entirety of its life over to producing it for those who do. And I often wonder what would happen if we were more like an apple tree!’ Ask the apple growers who grow and rear them in Kashmir valley for humanity. But the moment they are brooding and sulking and they have reasons to do so!’And here they are for the eyes of the readers:


-Apple is the main cash crop on which 7 lakh families (33 lakh people) are directly or indirectly involved with the apple industry in tJ&K. 1.9 million tons of apples are produced every year. India annually exports apples worth Rs 400 million out of which apples worth Rs 10 million are exported from Kashmir!


-Fruit growers from different areas of North Kashmir said that despite buying costly pesticides and employing highly skilled labourers to upkeep their apple orchards, they are struggling to reach a breakeven point as the inclement weather and disease coupled have hit the horticulture sector badly for the last three years!


-’ Manzoor Ah Lone A fruit grower from Handwara said, ‘substandard’ pesticides are being sold, the apple industry in Kashmir has suffered major losses this year. Fruit growers in the state peg the loss to as high as 80 per cent. We can't understand if the actual print rate of Superstar is one kilogram (example) costs Rs. 2000/-, then how the same one is available in the market at a pesticide shop only for Rs.1300/-. Not only Superstar and other pesticides, but almost forty types of original pesticides are also available in the market. He further added that we can't understand what the enforcement agencies who day after day organize awareness programs and elaborate shows are doing in this regard? It is we at the ground level that knows everything!’.


-Another fruit grower from the Green belt of Pharou, Abdul Rashid said, ‘we pay  Rs.100/- every day on each apple box to government, fruit agencies and fruit associations in the name of tax associations, labour charges, security freight, bank and other expenses but we can't understand at the end of the season only fruit grower becomes a target of every sanction. Whether it is Covid-19 restrictions or unnecessary stoppages of the loaded trucks while they are on the move to their respective destinations.


- Fruit grower Ghulam Ahmed said, ‘fruit traders associations, officials of Horticulture and enforcement department agencies enjoy their life in government as well as private luxury apartments and it is all at the expense of the fruit growers.’


- Many are sulking and saying that after the tourism failure, people had pinned hopes on horticulture and agriculture. However, the horticulture sector has failed this year and as a result, the growers are on the verge of bankruptcy. It's the duty of enforcement agencies, horticulture departments, private associations like JKFGDA and others to tell about the contributions of fruit growers towards the fruit industry. It is complete negligence of concerned authorities, private as well as government, to stop the fake price print system on pesticides, control the market price of fertilizers and other necessities of the fruit industry in Kashmir’!


-One of the famous fruit dealers Mushtaq Ahed remarked that it is time that the central government takes notice and acts for the betterment of the fruit industry in Kashmir as well as the economy of Jammu and Kashmir because the thrust is on the economy. He further said that every year apple growers suffer huge losses and some of them feel so disinterested and disgruntled in apple cultivation that they seriously think of shifting towards other sectors. This is the problem that needs to be analyzed and some great steps should be taken to ensure that apple growers do not face constant losses. The government should also take care of farmers if their produce gets affected by climatic conditions like wind, snow, rain, etc. They should be properly and timely compensated. Government should ensure crop insurance and should also declare, once for all, the untimely snowfall, that impacts the fruit, like a natural disaster


Various ancient records state that the cultivation of temperate fruits like apples is nearly 3000 years old. Kalhana in Rajatarangini makes mention of it in the reign of King Nara (1000 BC). One of the most famous places in the valley of Kashmir noted for its apple cultivation is Chunt Var for it has a lot of apple yards. The fruit trees then were grown also on the path edges and sporadically in the agricultural fields and slopes to provide shade and food. Native origination of various kinds and types are responsible for the regeneration of temperate fruits. It happens that when seeds are thrown on the ground after birds and animals eat the pulp of the fruit and throw it then stratification happens by forest litter and snow cover which results in regeneration under natural conditions. Palweth - Ambri apple of Kashmir and several others are instances existing. The most common areas in Kashmir which are known for their apple cultivation are Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Baramulla and Kupwara. A proper layout is required for the apple orchard. The planting is done in the months of January and February and the planting material is usually obtained from the nurseries which are registered with the government. But what the apple growers need is sincere assistance while the apple comes up on trees and is ready for harvesting! Good produce means a happy season but it cannot happen if the horticulture department does not take adequate interest while the fruit is in its growing stage. But they are all over the growers when the fruit is ready to get into the market! Bad idea all the way!


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