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J&K: Neglected Farmers Demand Support During Apple Harvest

The farmers said the apple crop in the valley has been marred by issues including dwindling prices, increased input costs and inadequate cold storage facilities.
Kashmir Apple Economy

Kashmir Apple Farmer

Srinagar: Ahead of the upcoming apple harvest season in Kashmir valley, several orchardists and apple farmers have urged the authorities in the region to support the farmers facing multiple challenges, including transportation and pricing of the crop in the horticulture sector. 

The apple farmers deliberated on many of these challenges during a conference by the Apple Farmers Federation of Kashmir (AFFK) in the apple-producing district of Pulwama on Wednesday. The conference was held at Fruit Mandi in Prichoo village and attended by various farmers' leaders.

The farmers said the apple crop in the valley has been marred by issues including dwindling prices, increased input costs like rising prices of fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and inadequate cold storage facilities. 

AFFK's Abdul Rashid said in a statement that the stakeholders demanded hassle-free movement of apple-laden trucks on the National Highway and expansion of high-density apple varieties to apple farmers. Rashid said that the farmers who opt for the new varieties scheme should be provided subsidies. 

Prominent farmer leader Zahoor Ahmad Rather expressed serious concern over the plight of orchardists, stating that the government has neglected the apple growers. 

"Market intervention scheme should be restarted. It enables small and marginalised farmers to sell their produce at reasonable rates," he said. 

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami also acknowledged that the apple farmers in the region are distressed, with the denial of remunerative prices being one of the major issues hurting the farmers. He also demanded the establishment of laboratories for testing the chemicals and fertilisers by the Horticulture department in every apple-producing district. 

Cultivated over 1.70 lakh Ha of land, the apple industry produces 1900 LMTs of crop yearly. The Rs 8000 crore industry is considered the backbone of the region's economy, with over 3 million people directly or indirectly involved in it. 

"The farmers are being supplied with spurious pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers, which harm the produce instead of treating different diseases. The scientists and faculty of SKAUST (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology) should examine its remedy," Tarigami said.  

The leader added that the claims of development made by the ruling dispensation remain hollow unless the livelihood issues of common people are addressed. He asserted that foreign apples should have a 100% import duty. 

"Provision of fertilisers and pesticides at subsidised rates to apple farmers, construction of cold stores at every apple producing tehsil and district so that the apple could be dispatched to the markets well in time," he added.  

The farmers also claimed that the government-run cold store in South Kashmir's Shopian district is "abandoned and dysfunctional" and needs to be made functional. They added that a cold storage facility of 2.5 lac metric tons needs an upgrade to 8 lac metric tons.

The speakers also demanded a government-regulated crop insurance scheme and regulation of transportation and freight charges. The farmers said the almond crop grown in the Pulwama district also faces distress due to a lack of irrigation facilities.

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