Dam­aged crop damp­ens wed­ding sea­son in ‘ap­ple bowl’ of Kash­mir

Dev­as­tated or­chard own­ers try to mend trees felled by un­timely snow­fall, say com­pen­sa­tion an­nounced is just a speck in com­par­i­son to the losses

The Hindu - - NATION - Peerzada Ashiq

November is the peak wed­ding sea­son in south Kash­mir’s ‘ap­ple bowl’ Shopian. But Riyaz Dar, an or­chard owner from Hir­pora vil­lage in the district, has de­cided to post­pone his sis­ter’s wed­ding fol­low­ing the snow­fall which dev­as­tated the stand­ing crop and in­flicted ver­ti­cal split in 63 of his 100 trees.

“I was wait­ing to sell off un­har­vested ap­ple in the sec­ond week of November. We were ex­pect­ing good money to marry my sis­ter off. But in­stead of wed­ding prepa­ra­tions, I am busy drilling the bro­ken tree trunks to re­join them with large screws. My fin­gers are crossed on how many will sur­vive and how many will bear fruits again,” said Dar.

Kash­mir wit­nessed un­timely heavy snow­fall in the plains on November 3-4, act­ing as an axe for the thou­sands of har­vested and un­har­vested ap­ple trees in south, cen­tral and north Kash­mir. Two ma­jor ap­ple va­ri­eties, the tangy Am­bri and sweet Golden, mainly har­vested in November, were badly im­pacted and are un­likely to hit the coun­try’s mar­kets in bulk this sea­son.

Ex­perts dur­ing the meet­ing of the State Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Fund, headed by Chief Sec­re­tary B.V.R. Subrah­manyam, on Fri­day warned that re­turns from the hor­ti­cul­ture crops, es­pe­cially ap­ple, “will dip for the next two to three years”, fu­elling rise in ap­ple prices across the coun­try.

A pre­lim­i­nary re­port of the Hor­ti­cul­ture Depart­ment sug­gests that fresh plan­ta­tion in 6,000 out of 20,000 hectare has been dam­aged. “Fifteen lakh trees have been dam­aged due to the snow­fall,” said Di­rec­tor (Hor­ti­cul­ture) Man­zoor Ahmad Qadri. Around 1.44 lakh hectare is un­der ap­ple cul­ti­va­tion in Kash­mir.

Mr. Qadri said sci­en­tists and ex­perts have been de­ployed to assess the losses, in­clud­ing the fu­ture fruit­bear­ing ca­pac­ity of par­tially dam­aged trees. “Tech­ni­cal sup­port is be­ing pro­vided for bind­ing of dam­aged trees for their re­cov­ery,” he said. The State ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clared the un­timely snow­fall a “spe­cial nat­u­ral calamity” to pro­vide re­lief to the af­fected or­chard own­ers.

It an­nounced ₹36,000 per hectare as dam­age to peren­nial crops like ap­ple.

Loss of ₹52,000 per tree

How­ever, the com­pen­sa­tion may not suf­fice or com­pen­sate the losses.

Lubna Beg, Chief Hor­ti­cul­ture Of­fi­cer of Khi­ramSirhama vil­lages, de­clared as model ap­ple vil­lages in south Kash­mir, told

that the loss per dam­aged tree aged be­tween 21 to

Hindu The

30 years worked out to ₹52,000. “Be­sides the ver­ti­cal splits, which may be cor­rected, snow also chopped off the fruit bear­ing branches. A well-cu­rated ap­ple tree has po­ten­tial to bear 20 boxes of apples from one branch. The loss is so huge that it may even re­quire all State em­ploy­ees to do­nate a day’s salary,” said Ms. Beg.

Ac­cord­ing to the Hor­ti­cul­ture Depart­ment, ap­ple har­vest was likely to cross the pre­vi­ous record of 17.9 met­ric tonnes of pro­duc­tion reached in 2017 (from 11 met­ric tonnes in 2011). Kash­mir ac­counts for 71% of na­tional ap­ple pro­duc­tion, worth ₹6,500 crore.

The snow also up­rooted the newly-in­tro­duced M-5 and M-6 va­ri­eties of high yield­ing and high den­sity trees, which al­lows a farmer to pro­duce 25 met­ric tonne per an­num per hectare, un­like 10 to 12 met­ric tonne from tra­di­tional trees. Official fig­ures sug­gest that seven lakh farm­ing fam­i­lies, with a pop­u­la­tion of 33 lakh, are di­rectly or in­di­rectly de­pen­dent on ap­ple pro­duc­tion.

“The com­pen­sa­tion given to us is just a speck in com­par­i­son to the short-term and long-term losses,” said Nazeer Ahmad, a mem­ber of the Kash­mir Val­ley Fruit Grow­ers-Cum-Deal­ers Union. “We de­mand im­ple­men­ta­tion of the hor­ti­cul­ture crop in­sur­ance scheme, ex­emp­tion of loans and waiver of in­ter­est on the bank ac­counts,” he said.

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