Kashmir Apple Grapples With Politics and Pandemic

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Kashmir has more area under apple cultivation than the world’s second largest producer, the US. Kashmir exports 20 lakh metric tons of apple annually and generates Rs 9000 crore revenue per annum. 70 percent of the apples consumed in India comes from Kashmir.

There are 113 varieties of Apple grown in Kashmir but only seven types are grown on a commercial scale. Shireen, Firdous, Delicious, Ambri, Treal, Maharaji, Kesaer and Royal Misri are some of the known varieties. However the most popular variety of apple in Kashmir is Ambri. Apple industry in Kashmir provides direct and indirect employment to 33 lakh people.

The heavy snow this year badly damaged the Apple orchards. In November 2019 heavy snowfall uprooted trees and caused extensive damage to the orchards. Already two successive lockdowns first imposed on August 5, 2019 and later forced by the pandemic, the apple industry of Kashmir was facing a severe crisis with loss of over 1.35 lakh metric ton.

The lockdown of 5 August 2019 had brought the apple trade to a standstill as lockdown was imposed when the crop was ready for harvest. Thanks to the lockdown a bumper apple crop was left to rot on the ground and on trees because there was no means of transport available to shift fruit to outside markets.

This year besides pandemic induced lockdown, scab and other infections have engulfed the orchards as pandemic delayed necessary sprays. Sub-standard fungicides are said to be other reasons for damage. Ironically there’s still no crop insurance for apple growers of Kashmir. No safety net for the industry-providing livelihood to 47 percent of the population of Kashmir.

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