Slump in production forces almond farmers turn to apple cultivation

Rafia Rahim
Budgam: The continuous decline in almond production from past over six years in many areas of valley is forcing farmers to switch over to apple cultivation, with horticulturalists appealing government to enact strong legislation to stop the “negative trend”.
Horticulturalists hold changing weather patterns of Valley and climate change phenomenon responsible for the low yield of almonds in Valley.
“Also, the low almond produce fetches little returns to farmers in the market, which ultimately motivates them to cut down their trees and plant apple trees instead,” horticulture development officer, Mohammad Shafi Dar said.
As per the data provided by horticulture department officials to Kashmir Reader, the almond production in district Budgam from 2012 till the current year has declined by 86%. In 2012-2013, 7098 hectares of land produced 3096 metric tonnes of almond in Budgam. In 2015-2016, however, both the production and the area declined to 2467 metric tonnes and 1467 hectares respectively.
Data reveals that the almond production has immensely declined in other parts of the Kashmir too. In 2012-2013, the almond production in district Pulwama was 3453 metric tonnes under the area of 6515 hectares. And in 2015-2016, both production and area declined to 2548 metric tonnes to 4668 hectares respectively.
Ganderbal had 21 metric tonnes of production under the area of 102 hectares in 2012-2013, which has been declined to 19 metric tonnes by production and 43 hectares of area till 2015-2016.
Srinagar had 146 metric tonnes of almond production under the area of 909 hectares in 2012-2013 which has been declined to mere 58 metric tonnes in terms of production and only 469 hectares area till 2015-2016.
Almond, being an early bloomer, faces weather vagaries as temperature remains very low or frosty till March or early April which hampers the blooming of the fruit and it ultimately results in its low yield.
Deputy director horticulture Kashmir, who also holds additional charge of chief horticulture officer Budgam, Akther Hussain Lone, told Kashmir Reader: “Now, Sher-E-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKAUST-K) has recently introduced some late budding grafting materials (which help in late blooming) and we are popularizing it among people. We hope in coming two or three years, almond production will be revived.”
He appealed government to enact a law which penalizes cutting of almond trees and makes available high-yielding variants of almond trees “so that the legacy of almonds in Kashmir valley is saved from decline.”
Budgam district had highest land under almond cultivation till recently. Not any more now, as many farmers have now shifted to apple cultivation while others have altogether stopped growing almonds.
Head assistant horticulture department Budgam, Abdul Gani Bhat, who hails from Pulwama, says that he cut his almost orchard spread over 40 kanals of land and planted apple trees in place. “As the (almond) production was very low, the returns of which did not equal the cost I would incur on pesticides and fertilizers, so I had no option but to plant apple trees,” he said.
Mohammad Ramzan Dar, a farmer, of Loolipora village of district Budgam, had similar experience.
“I cut all the Almond tress because I was not getting takers of the produce in the market. Few years before, the revenue generated by almonds was very high but from past 7-8 years it is declining immensely. The horticulture department too has not provided any high-yielding plants.”

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