Baramulla/ Budgam/ Shopian: Snowfall that started from Friday night in Kashmir has come not just too early in the season but also as a blight on the valley’s apple orchards. Reports reached Kashmir Reader from across the valley of extensive damage caused to apple trees due to the heavy snow that accumulated on leaves and branches.
Mudassar Ahmad, a fruit grower from Rafiabad area of north Kashmir, said the snowfall damaged hundreds of apples that were still on trees, while branches of trees broke down due to the weight of the snow. He said the government should compensate apple growers for their loss.
President of the Sopore fruit mandi, Fayaz Ahmad Malik, said that trucks laden with apples have been stopped at Qazigund for no reason. He appealed to the Governor to immediately issue directions that the trucks be allowed to proceed, or else more than four lakh apple boxes will be spoiled.
In south Kashmir, apple growers at many places in Shopian and Pulwama said they feared heavy damage to their crops due to the snowfall. They said that 60 percent of their harvested crop had been left stranded in orchards, lying on the ground in snow. They said the snow may damage the fruit.
Reports of damage to apple orchards came from areas such as Kandi, Abhama in Pulwama district, and Keller area of Shopian district. Orchardists in these areas said that apples have fallen from trees due to the snow and both fruits and trees have suffered damage. Ishfaq Ahmad, a resident of Keller, said that branches of hundreds of trees were damaged in his village.
A horticulture official based in Pulwama said that there is no need to worry till the temperature stays above zero degree. “Orchardists should cover the fruit lying on ground with polythene sheets, and they should also cover the boxes with polythene sheets,” he said. “If the temperature post snowfall goes below zero, it may cause harm to fruits, so it’s better to cover the fruits.”
Gulzar Ahmad Khan, a resident of Pinjora area of Shopian, said that he was apprehensive about his apple trees. “If the snowfall continues, the trees may sustain damage, as the snow accumulates on leaves and puts added weight on the branches.”
In central Kashmir’s Budgam district, apple growers said they were anxious at this unseasonal snowfall. At several places in Budgam district, including in Charar-e-Sharief, Pakherpora, Chadoora, Budgam, Khan Sahab, Beerwah, Khag, Soibug, Magam, Arizal, Palpora, and Poshker, apple trees had suffered damage.
“The incessant snowfall has damaged most of the apple orchards here in Budgam,” said Zahoor Ahmad, a resident of Razwan.
He said that the unexpected snowfall was heavier than normal snowfall and the accumulated snow on tree branches broke down many of them.
“We have suffered huge losses. In Budgam district, people are mostly dependent on apple orchards. This year due to hailstorms and unexpected snowfall a few times, we have suffered a lot of loss,” said Shabir Bhat of Beerwah.
Apple growers demanded from the government compensation and measures to protect the orchards.
Chief Horticulture Officer Budgam, PK Ambardar, told Kashmir Reader that 18 teams of experts have been assigned the job of assessing the damage on immediate basis.
“The district administration has formed a committee, which includes horticulture experts also, that will assess the loss. They have been asked to submit their report as soon as possible,” Ambardar said.
“Our main target now is not to just assess the loss but to provide basic techniques to farmers to safeguard the trees,” he said. “We can help them in keeping intact the tree branches by using different techniques.”
Ambardar said that most of the apple crop had been already harvested in Budgam district and only 10% of the crop is standing on trees.
“The main damage has been suffered by trees,” he said, adding that farmers have been asked to drain out the water from the orchards and shake down the snow from the trees.