Horticulture in Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir is not only famous for its scenic beauty but also for its delicious fruits. The Union Territory has an area of 2.22 lakh sq km, of which 55% is under fruit cultivation. The region is climatically suited for the cultivation of almost all temperate fruits and also some kinds of tropical fruits. It receives annual rainfall between 30 inches and 35 inches and snowfall between 75 cm and 205 cm. Horticulture is the backbone of the economy with a yearly turnover of Rs 1,200 cores. It also provides direct and indirect employment to 70% of the population with more than 6 lakh families dependent on it. The production of fruits has increased by 24% from 1973 to 2018. The area under fruit cultivation has increased from 2.95 lakh hectares in 2007-2008 to 3.57 lakh hectors in 2015-16, according to the Horticulture Department.
Normally, fruits are ready for harvesting in September-October in Kashmir valley. Fruit matures within a period of 130-150 days after full bloom stage. In this period of maturation, farmers do different activities like spraying of fungicides, mixing of fertilisers with soil, cutting of grass in orchards, watering, cutting of buds, harvesting of crop, and finally, cleaning of orchards. These different activities are called by different names in different districts, but in south Kashmir these names are common. ‘Davaha Karun’, ‘Khaad Traven’, ‘Gaseec Lonun’, ‘Aab Barun’, ‘Chooot Valeen’, ‘Katay karrun’ and ‘Sawfayee Karrun’ are some of the names used in south Kashmir. To perform these activities in orchards, sometimes the Horticulture Department sends its experts to supervise and give instructions. But, mostly, farmers follow their own experience.
The month of harvesting is called as ‘Harud’ in Kashmir. This season starts from September and ends in late October. As this season sets in, all fruit farmers pray to Almighty Allah for rain. Rain is the only natural source for irrigation of the orchards. Towards the end of October, farmers start the harvesting of apples, mostly of the varieties of Kullu, Kenoor, and Bulgaria. After the harvesting of these varieties, farmers start the harvesting of ‘Delicious’ apples. This is the main variety of apple in the valley. After the harvesting, farmers start the packing of apples to sell them. This work can only don by skilled labour and is called as ‘Baraay’. Farmers sell their produce either in the orchard itself or in madis. Most of the apple is sent to markets in other states. After selling their produce, farmers buy household items for the whole year. After a while, the work of cutting of buds starts again. This is called as ‘ Kataay’ and is mostly done by skilled labour.
Fruit crop in 2020
The fruit crop of 2020 is like the crop of 1999. It has been severely damaged by fungal diseases. Who is responsible for this damage? Is it the farmers or the Horticulture Department, or climate change, Covid-19, substandard fungicides, or any other? As for farmers, they are not responsible, because they did every spray recommended by the University of SKUAST and the Horticulture Department. According to some expert farmers, the substandard fungicides are the main culprit. Most farmers say that this year the fungicides supplied were spurious and ineffective. Farmers who sprayed fungicides from previous years did not find any diseases affecting their crop.
Effect of Covid-19
Before this year, it was the custom of farmers to go sell their produce themselves. They visited different places in the Kashmir valley where accommodation was provided free by the trader, who is called as ‘Bapari’. The ‘Baparis’, too, would visit farmers to see their crop. Due to Covid-19, this year the farmers as well as the Baparis did not travel. Covid-19 thus affected the traditional mode of business and the selling of fruit became much more of an impersonal affair.
—The writer is a student at Kashmir University. adil7123662gmail.com