Valley cultivators now favour apples over traditional almond

Valley cultivators now favour apples over traditional almond
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Land under almond production sees 50 percent drop since 2011

SRINAGAR: The growing demand for Kashmiri apples, though yielding good returns in Indian markets, is gradually putting an end to almond production in the Valley. Since 2011, as per government figures, 70 percent of almond production has been replaced by apples.
What in 2011 was nearly 16,000 hectares of land under almond production has today been reduced to a mere 7,000 hectares, the government data states. Pulwama district, for instance, was once a centre for almond production; it now has about 4,500 hectares under almonds as against 6,000 in 2011. Almond production in Budgam district has similarly lost about 5,600 hectares of almond land as of 2017.
What has led to this shift of production patterns? That apple production has risen is to be appreciated, but it should not be at the cost of a dry fruit whose demand is growing world over but whose supply from the Valley has diminished.
Almond cultivators blame low returns for the almond in India on the imported variety selling at lower prices. A farmer in Budgam, Abdul Rahman, has converted 10 out of 18 hectares of almond land into apple because he can sell apples at good rates with less competition.
“So why would I grow almonds if I make more money with apples?” he said. As is usual among farmers, he prefers to give up the market he has nurtured for many years. For him and other farmers, an understanding of how imported almonds sell at lower rates, ending their monopoly, begins and ends with the use of chemical fertilisers.
“Low-grade almonds from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries cost less. Ours are high grade, hence they cost more – which is why we bleed,” said Muhammad Sultan Dar, another farmer from Budgam.
This conversion has gradually erased 50 percent of almond production. Last year saw nearly 300 quintals produced against 600 in 2011.
For Director Agriculture Altaf Andrabi, the reason for the decline is the replacement of old almond trees by new ones.
“There were some 90-year-old almond trees which had given low production. Now, for the past many years, they have been replaced by new ones, which will take some more years for production. The reason for the low production is that only,” he said.