SHOPIAN: Come spring, and orchardists begin spraying different kinds of pesticides, fungicides, insecticides and growth regulators over their fruit trees to keep crop diseases at bay and have a quality harvest. But what bites them today is the uncontrolled price of these products, even as spurious substitutes go unchecked despite the government’s tall claims.
Orchardists in south Kashmir districts are aghast at the Department of Agriculture for having what they say is a callous attitude towards market checking and booking those who sell pesticides at higher rates. The orchardists say the sellers are looting them and they want to see action.
“We are confused about the rates of pesticides, where will we go? Recently I bought a particular fungicide which the pesticide seller sold me at a cost of Rs 1,800 a kg, while the same product, of the same batch and manufacture date, was sold to my neighbour by another dealer for Rs 2,100 a kg,” said Sheeraz Ahmad Bhat, an orchardist from Pinjora area of Shopian.
Another orchardist said that he bought a fungicide (Captaf) from the market with a Rs 1,100 maximum retail price (MRP), which he purchased for Rs 760 a kg, but later discovered being sold for Rs 560 per kg. “They are looting us with both hands and the government has paved them the way by not stopping them and checking the market,” said Nasir Ahmad Malik, another orchardist.
A group of orchardists from Shopian told Kashmir Reader that despite the government’s tall claims about stopping the sale of spurious pesticides, rates are touching the skies but nobody is giving it any attention. “It is not a business of pesticides but a gang of looters that is cheating the poor orchardists in the name of pesticide selling,” said Farooq Ahmad.
President Fruit Grower and Zamindar Association, Shopian, Mushtaq Ahmad Malik told Kashmir Reader that “Law enforcement wing of agriculture department is in slumber while orchardists are getting looted. There are several substandard products in the market, but how can an orchardist know which one is a standard product?”
Bilal Ahmed, a member of the Association, told Kashmir Reader that the law enforcing agencies are in league with the pesticide sellers and let them sell spurious pesticides at higher rates.
Jahangir Ahmad Ganie, a resident of Litter area, said that the condition of the orchardists is worsening day by day with the heavy pesticide rates. “We already have burdens of heavy loans, how can we pay back these loans when 50 percent of the income of our orchards is spent on pesticides and fungicides?” he queried while demanding regular market checks in their area.
Around 95 percent of Shopian’s population is directly dependent on horticulture while 70 percent are in Pulwama and more than 75 percent in Kulgam.
Four orchardists from Pinjora village told Kashmir Reader that last year they sprayed Swagat growth regulator which damaged 90 percent of their crop. “When we brought the issue to the notice of the higher authorities, they sent the product for lab tests but till date we have not seen their reply,” one of the orchardists said while adding that lab tests should be conducted before the product enters the market and that those who are violating the laws should be punished as per law.
Deputy Director, Law Enforcement, Department of Agriculture, Kashmir, Anil Kumar told Kashmir Reader that he assumed office two days back and will call a meeting in this regard on Friday. “I have noted down your queries and we are going to hold a meeting tomorrow. I will contact all chief agriculture officers in this regard and appropriate market checking will be conducted,” he said, adding that orchardists must consult experts of the Department of Horticulture and Agriculture before going for spray in their orchards.