SHOPIAN: After seven years of wait and struggle, joy returned to the apple growers and orchardists of this mountainous south Kashmir district, Shopian. A bumper crop rekindled hopes of repaying debits, but the government has failed once again to provide growers and orchardists the necessary services.
A hike in freight and no transport for ferrying apple boxes to different markets in India has not only decreased rates but left the bulk of apple production waiting for auction in the district.
The Arhama Mandi president, Muhammad Amin Pir, told Kashmir Reader that despite commitments from the government, apple growers are still waiting for trucks even at this late date. “There being a lack of transport facilities, auctions have been stopped; no nonlocal trader is ready to buy our produce because there is no transport. Those who have their own transport facilities, they are taking advantage of those without, which has diminished the rates,” he said.
After a hard wait of seven years, Shopian’s apple growers are happy this year with a massive increase in apple production and a decrease in diseases. In most areas of Shopian, the increase in apple production is being celebrated as a festival.
Diseases too remained at bay this year. There was a huge decline in diseases like scab and San Jos Scale, and only seven to ten percent of production was hit with diseases which are considered the 100 percent decline of diseases.
President of the Fruit Growers and Zmindars’ Association Mushtaq Ahmad Malik told Kashmir Reader that underhand auctions are still a challenge in the way of the development of the horticulture sector. “Higher freights and underhand auctions are looting orchardists, and the government must take steps in this regard,” he said.
According to horticulture experts, there has been a 100 percent increase in the apple crop this year. They also said that there was a hike in rates as compared to 2016.
Muhammad Yaqoub Ganie, a resident of Vehil area, said they have hopes this year of clearing their debits. “Thank God it was a bumper crop this year and we are happy,” he said. He continued that the government had again failed to provide services like crop insurance, curbs on sprout pesticide sellers and unavailability of transport services.
Officials from the area marketing department said that they were collecting the details about the total fruits disbursed from Shopian Mandi to different stations of India. “We have no clear record as yet about the fruits disbursed, but there was a huge increase in production this year,” an official said.
Another orchardist from Pinjora area said, “We have hopes of huge gains this year but undescribed commissions taken by traders will not let us earn well.” He added that the Horticulture minister must intervene in the issue, so that the sector could be saved.
According to Jammu and Kashmir bank officials, they have 95 percent of loan circulation among the orchardists, particularly under the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme. Under the scheme, orchardists were given loans at only six percent interest.
Head assistant, Horticulture department, Shopian, Abdul Majeed told Kashmir Reader that 26,231 hectares of land in the district is under fruit cultivation with 22,936 hectares under apple/cherry cultivation and 3,495 under dry fruits (walnut).
He added that “There is an estimate of 2,58,078 metric tons of production, but it may increase as we get the final detail.” He added that the production may have 100 percent increase this year. “Other than areas like Jamnagri, Reshnagari and adjoining villages, the overall production was A-grade.”
With bountiful results like this, thousands of tons of apples have been cool stored by orchardists and growers in different stores of the Lasdipora Industrial Area. Nature and the cultivators have outdone themselves this year; sadly, the government has yet to show signs of keeping up.