Shopian: After good rates of apple throughout the autumn, the end of November has brought down the rates of Kashmiri apple by Rs 100 to Rs 250 per box in various Indian markets and mandis.
Experts believe that many reasons are responsible for this decline, which include cold conditions in north India, flood-like situation after continuous rains in south India, and import of apple from Turkey, Iran and other European countries.
However, apple growers allege that once the non-local traders, who spent the autumn in Kashmir buying apple, left Kashmir, the local traders imposed an artificial rate suppression to earn more by foul methods.
Currently, the rates of Kashmiri apple are down by Rs 100 to Rs 250 in different Indian markets compared to the rates which Kashmir apple was witnessing before 15 November. If the rates continued to plunge like this, it would not be a good omen for the Kashmir apple industry.
Khursheed Ahmad Ganie, a Shopian-based trader, told Kashmir Reader that he sent a truck load of apple (1000 boxes) to Bangalore 10 days ago but the seller was able to sell only 600 boxes in all these days due to the ongoing heavy rainfall in the region.
Growers said that many of them went for pruning of fruit trees after untimely snowfall in October and left their fruit unsold. Then, once they started selling it, the rates came down sharply.
“If seems the rates were intentionally reduced as most of the non-local traders had left the valley. The local traders once again had monopoly, which we feel is the reason behind the rate decline,” said Shabir Ahmad Bhat, a grower whose 1500 apple boxes are yet to be sold in the market.
Muhammad Ashraf, former president of the Shopian fruit mandi, however said that after the advent of cold conditions in north India, apple is no more a preferred fruit. “On the other hand, south India, which was consuming a large chunk of apple, has a flood-like situation after continuous rainfall and the apple doesn’t reach there or even if it gets, it is not sold, thus bringing down the rates due to no demand,” he said.
Ashraf said that there are least expectations of a rate increase till the end of January or till the end of the cold wave in northern India and till south India gets out of its flood mess.
In south Kashmir’s Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag, a large number of orchardists are yet to pack and sell their fruit as many of them skipped the process for pruning trees to save them from any further damage caused by snowfall.
Javid Ahmad, a horticulture market expert, said that apple from many countries like Iran and Turkey is also being imported which is being sold at lower prices than the Kashmiri apple. “Besides the import, many locally grown fruits have also arrived in the market which is giving customers multiple choices,” he said.
Till mid November, a Kashmiri Kulu delicious apple box (15-18 kg) was being sold at about Rs 1300 at the Delhi mandi, and at Rs 1500 to 1700 in south Indian cities, but currently there are almost no buyers in south Indian states while the apple is being sold at about a thousand rupees in the Delhi market.
Kashmiri growers this year had stored over two lakh metric tonnes of apple, mostly Kulu Delicious variety from Shopian and Pulwama regions, in cold storages after last year’s experience of high rates for the stored apple, despite the Covid scare across India.
Muhammad Ashraf said that given the quantity of fruit stored this year, there are not good chances of last year’s rates. “After the recent good rates, we were expecting that cold stores will start to open by January, but now that the rates have come down, it gets hard even to sell the fresh apple at handsome rates,” Ashraf said.