Kashmiri Apple needs government patronage

Kashmiri Apple needs government patronage

In a promising apple village of district Anantnag, Sirhama, the month of September used to be a busy month. It used to be a month of dreams, aspirations, hope, and the result of months of hard work, the time of harvest. Throughout the year, the harvesting season is cherished and looked upon as a source of peace and prosperity and a panacea for all ills.
Apple farming is the sole economic activity of almost 98% people here in Sirhama, hence it is this season which determines the yearly plans of the entire population of the village, that is, the bread and butter, clothing, shelter, the education of the children, the marriage of the young, the construction and maintenance of the religious places, and even the medicines for the old.
But this year there is a complete lull and there seems hardly any enthusiasm among the people in this month. The people are sceptical and in great dilemma and there is no rush for the apple harvesting and labourers, too, are very less in number in the village. This is not the story of Sirhama only; the entire population engaged in apple farming in Jammu and Kashmir is in the same condition and situation.
The main reason for this lull and pessimism is the low rates in the market for apples. The market is very down and it has crushed the hopes and aspirations of the people. The people have made huge investment in this sector. They started working for this season in the month of November last year and have incurred huge expenses on fertilisers, fungicides, pesticides, apple boxes, machinery and man power. For these expenses most of the people have availed different types of loans and grants with heavy interest rates. In short, the common man at this time is in debt and owes a lot to different firms and corporate offices.
The people are eagerly waiting for the market prices to go up, so that they may get good returns for the produce. They are observing the marketing strategies very keenly but also praying with folded hands for an upward trend in the market prices. More than this, the people are eagerly waiting for the government’s intervention and are expecting its support in shaping the markets in their favour. They are looking for the government to lend them a helping hand and bail them out from the grave situation. In this regard they are hopeful that the government will extend the policies of “Atmanirbhar” and “Make in India” to the horticulture sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmiri apple is in utmost need of government patronage. There should be an organised way of supporting and promoting the apple. The industry should have a recognised brand name and for the promotion of this brand a marketing agency should be there. The government should regulate the imports of apples from foreign countries in such a way that it may neither hit nor hurt the indigenous grower. The indigenous grower should get the preference in the domestic market hence most of the benefits.
The apple industry in Jammu and Kashmir lacks the basic facilities related to production and marketing of the famous crispy Kashmiri apples. The industry is in dire need of government attention as the harvesting season is at its peak and the abnormal market fluctuations have put the growers in a dilemma. The growers of the valley demand that:
a). The government should fix appropriate rates of the apple in response to the cost incurred on its production and high inflation.
b). There is a growing demand for cold storages in different regions and in the prominent fruit belts like of Dochnipora bloc of Anantnag district. It may provide an opportunity to the growers to sell their produce once the market is in their favour.
c). Availability of local markets. The local markets help the grower financially and there are less chances of fraud.
d). The truck unions in the valley are manipulating the situation and are charging very high rates. In this regard there should be proper management of transportation in response to the demand and supply so that the poor grower may not suffer.
e). There should be free flow of the fruits to different markets at the national level. The national highway needs immediate attention for repair and the transportation of fruits ought to get preference.
It is government attention which is of utmost importance at this juncture as the corporate houses and even the multinational companies have made their entry in the apple industry and are monopolising the markets. It is the government only which has the mandate and the authority to influence their policy making and can reschedule the fixed rates in favour of the grower.
The government should intervene as soon as possible and let the apple be the source of happiness and prosperity for the rural population and a good economic booster for the entire UT.

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