Shopian: Thousands of apple-laden trees were torn apart in Kashmir under the weight of a devastating, untimely snowfall that has once again wreaked havoc on the horticulture sector. Pitiful scenes were witnessed here in south Kashmir on Saturday of orchardists trying to pluck apples and shake down the snow from their trees with bare hands even amid heavy snowfall.
Kashmir’s apple industry has once again suffered huge losses due to the untimely snowfall that has come a fortnight earlier than in November 2019 when thousands of fruit trees were damaged. However in 2019, there was much less apple yet to be plucked compared to this year when hundreds of tonnes of apple were still on the trees.
According to locals of Sedow, Rawalpora, Shalatoo, Meminder, Keller, Zawoora, DH pora, Manzgam, Bamnoo and other villages in upper areas, more than 40 percent of apple was yet to be harvested when it started snowing and raining on late Friday night.
They said that orchardists in the area, who comprise 90 percent of the local population, have been devastated due to this snowfall. In Hirpora area, according to locals, one foot of snow has accumulated on the ground. They said that 40 percent of the fruit trees in the area, mostly of apple, have been damaged due to heavy snowfall.
Similarly in Kareva Shadab, Shalatoo and other areas where more than 40 percent fruit was yet to be harvested, orchardists said that huge damage has occurred both to trees as well as fruits.
Muhammad Ishaq Wani, a local from Arshipora, said that many growers in the area had been taking down the apples since the forecast of the snowfall, but despite that many of their trees and much of their fruit has been damaged due to the snowfall.
Muhammad Nafie, a local from Dochnu Hirpora, told Kashmir Reader that orchardists in the area spent the whole day in their orchards to save trees, but almost half the number of their trees fell apart due to the intensity of the snow.
The meteorological department in Kashmir had predicted light to moderate rain and snowfall from Saturday morning four days ago. However, the snowfall that actually occurred was much heavier than forecast.
The absence of non-local labourers, most of whom left the valley in the wake of several targeted killings of non-locals, resulted in more damage to the fruit trees as the orchard work needed to save the trees remained unfinished.
A senior SKUAST scientist, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Reader that in upper areas like Hirpora, Sedow, Keller, Bamnoo, the weather always remains unpredictable and it snows early here. He said that people in these areas should opt for high-density apple plantation as these varieties have a shorter season.
Though experts believe that early snowfall in Kashmir is increasingly related to climate change, they also suggest that people in upper reaches should change the pruning style. “When we keep more branches on trees for the want of more fruit, it means we are keeping more leaves too, which adds to the load on the trees and results in more damages from snowfall. Orchardists in higher-altitude areas should go for old-style pruning with less branches and better canopy system,” said Javid Ahmad, a horticulture expert.
While the government is yet to assess losses, apple growers say that 50 percent of their fruit trees have been damaged in upper belts of Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama districts.
In lower areas like Trenz, Killora, Imamsahib, Turkwangam, and Pinjora in Shopian district, and Rajpora, Kralcheck in Pulwama district, less damage was reported in fruit trees till Saturday 7:30pm.
Faizan Arif, an independent weather forecaster, had earlier predicted moderate snowfall in Pulwama and Shopian districts. He said that there will be improvement in weather from 9pm Saturday.
“Rain/snow continues in most parts of central and south Kashmir. Improvement in weather is expected in parts of north and central Kashmir within the next 3hrs. For south Kashmir, rain/snow will continue for the next 2-5hrs and improvement thereafter. Nothing significant is expected during the night,” Arif posted his weather update at 4pm.