Shopian: High-density apple trees are proving revolutionary for people dependent on the fruit industry in Kashmir. This year, the locally grown imported varieties of these apples are fetching record rates in markets outside the valley.
According to traders, a kilogram of Gala variety of high-density apple is being sold at Rs 150. Growers say that even the Grade B of the variety is being sold at good rates. “We sold a Grade B of Gala at Rs 70 per kilogram locally,” said Mubashir Ahmad, a resident of Chitragam village of Shopian.
Growers, however, complain that the hail nets not provided by the government to those who planted high-density apples under a government scheme is taking a toll on their crop, as at many places the fruit was damaged due to hail storms which occurred in the months of April and May.
“High-density plantations without hail nets have no security. If hail falls on these trees, it damages all the fruit, as these trees unlike the traditional ones don’t have too many leaves to shield the fruit,” said Javeed Ahmad, a grower.
Kashmir so far has brought 4,800 kanals of horticulture land under high-density apple plantation, which amounts to only 0.07 percent of the total horticulture land which is 3.4 lakh hectares. The number of trees so far planted, according to official data, is 7,92,000, which are expected to bear 1,60,000 boxes of apple (16 kg per box).
Director Horticulture Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, told Kashmir Reader that this year Kashmir is expected to witness Rs 24 crore returns on high-density apple. “It is the third or fourth year of high-density plantation in Kashmir and it has started proving highly beneficial for the growers, both in terms of market rates and lesser investment,” he said, adding that so far 240 hectares of land have been brought under high-density apple plantation.
When asked why hail net wasn’t included in the government’s subsidiary scheme, he said, “When the scheme was new and there was no fruit on trees, what was the need of hail nets? Now trees have started bearing fruit and nets will be also included in it.”
According to the J&K State’s Economic Survey 2017, 3.4 lakh hectares of land is under fruit cultivation of which 48% is used to grow apples. It is the primary source of livelihood for about 34 lakh people or about seven lakh families in Kashmir.