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Himachal: Sky Rocketing Production Costs Push Apple Growers to Protest Against Govt

Orchardists took to the streets at Rohru and Theog in Shimla district, led by Sanyukt Kisan Manch and Seb Utpadak Sangh, against the hike in the cost of packaging material, rising input costs, withdrawal of subsidies on pesticides, and hike in the cost of fertilisers.
Himachal: Sky Rocketing Production Costs Push Apple Growers to Protest Against Govt

With the harvesting of early varieties of apple having begun in the state on July 10, fears have returned among horticulturists, especially apple growers, about diminishing margins in the current marketing season. This is because the cost of various inputs involved in the production and marketing of the apple crop has jumped this year.

Angry with the hike in prices of packaging material and lack of agricultural input subsidies, growers from Theog and Rohru in Shimla district - where apple production is predominant - took out demonstrations on July 12

In Theog, a march organised by the Seb Utpadak Sangh was taken out from the PWD Resthouse to the SDM office with an 8-point charter of demands to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.

Addressing the gathering, leader of the Sangh and MLA from Theog-Kumarsain constituency, Rakesh Singha said that while apple production was the backbone of Himachal Pradesh’s economy, successive governmental policies were leading apple growers to ruin. “The manner in which prices of fertilisers, pesticides and cartons were being hiked, orchard-keeping has become a loss-making enterprise. State and Central governments should have brought apple farming into a special category; whereas their actions are presently destroying this sector,” Singha said.

Singha also pointed attention to the Central government’s hike in GST on cartons from 12% to the 18% slab. “Till now, trays from Mohan Fiber company costed Rs 5. From this year, growers are having to pay Rs 8 per tray. Every crate uses 6–7 trays. This means that each crate costs Rs 80 each now. All in all, the total cost of picking, grading, packing, cartons, and freight till the mandi is totally at Rs 300-400.”

The veteran trade union and peasant leader informed the gathering that since independence, such a singular hike in carton and tray prices has not been witnessed.

apple grower

In the memorandum submitted to the SDM, demand for removal of hike in GST on apple crates and trays, implementation and enforcement of MSP, revival of subsidies in fertilisers and pesticides, immediate clearance of payment under the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), provision of procurement of apple by the kilogram in mandis, procurement of apple by the government as it happens in J&K, and demand for more cold storage infrastructure were included.

The Theog rally was also addressed by leaders of Himachal Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

apple grower

In Rohru, under the banner of the Sanyukt Kisan Manch, apple farmers took out a rally against inflation and price rise in the sector. Convenor of the Manch, Sanjay Chauhan, said that “The government has backstabbed the apple farmers by increasing the GST (on apple crates). They are being controlled by the corporates.” Chauhan and other leaders of the Manch added that if the government did not reduce the costs of cartons, the farmers would not hesitate to unitedly build a movement against them.

It may be noted that growers’ fears are increasing this season as they are also expecting a drop in production due to inclement weather: drought-like conditions and hailstorms in the crucial months of April-July when the apple fruit undergoes physiological growth. Farmers have reported unshapely apples, discolouration, and the development of cracks. The marketing season, now further exacerbated by the hike in the cost of production, may prove dangerous for the apple growers of Himachal Pradesh.

The leaders said that if the government fails to respond positively over the next few days, a larger protest will be held at the block level on July 20.

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