Kash­mir’s blush

The Val­ley’s fa­mous ap­ple or­chards are in fruit with a bumper crop

The Hindu - - FRAMED - Text by Peerzada Ashiq and im­ages by Nis­sar Ah­mad

Ap­ple trees droop heav­ily with fruit in the fa­mous or­chards of Kash­mir this sea­son. In the ap­ple-rich dis­tricts of south and north Kash­mir, the har­vest con­tin­ues to be a fam­ily af­fair. The or­chard own­ers have a rea­son to cheer, as the Hor­ti­cul­ture De­part­ment has de­clared a bumper crop.

The de­part­ment is look­ing to best the pre­vi­ous record of 17.9 tonnes in 2017 af­ter some high yield­ing va­ri­eties were in­tro­duced. Ac­count­ing for 71% of the na­tional ap­ple pro­duc­tion, the Val­ley is send­ing over 500 trucks car­ry­ing the fruit to var­i­ous parts of the coun­try and Nepal, Bannd gladesh and other coun­tries ev­ery day. Each truck car­ries 500 to 1,300 boxes. The trans­port started in the first week of Septem­ber, and will only in­crease by Novem­ber-end. “The num­ber of trucks goes up to 1,500 a day in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber,” a Hor­ti­cul­ture De­part­ment of­fi­cial said. Pul­wama dis­trict is look­ing at reap­ing ₹720 crore from ap­ple sales this year, Deputy Com­mis­sioner G.M. Dar says. Pul­wama is counted among the ap­ple-rich dis­tricts of Kash­mir, be­sides Shopian and Bara­mulla. When tra­di­tional or­chards pro­duce just 10 to 12 tonnes, those with im­ported breeds such as M-6 fetch 25 tonnes. In­tro­duced in the 1930s in So­pore dis­trict of north Kash­mir, cov­er­ing 12,000 hectares, the ap­ple crop now stands on nearly 2.14 lakh hectares in the Val­ley. The ap­ple in­dus­try gen­er­ates around 7.71 crores man-days, with women mak­ing up over 25% of the work­force. Seven lakh farm­ing fam­i­lies are di­rectly or in­di­rectly de­pen­dent on ap­ple cul­ti­va­tion.

Val­ley’s fa­mous ex­port: As the bumper ap­ple crop has painted a red streak across or­chards in Kash­mir, farm­ers are busy har­vest­ing the fruit for trans­port across In­dia and abroad.

Sea­son’s best: In mid-Septem­ber, grow­ers across Kash­mir start har­vest­ing ap­ples. The sea­son goes on till mid-Novem­ber.

On the move: A farmer wheels the freshly pro­duce for sort­ing.

Colour pal­ette: Green vy­ing for at­ten­tion amid a sea of red.

Red rain: A farmer has his hands full sort­ing the ap­ples.

plucked

Dap­ple-grey weather: It’s a race against time for ap­ple farm­ers in Kash­mir as the fickle weather can put the brakes on a bumper har­vest this sea­son.

In tran­sit: Ap­ples in boxes go to wait­ing trucks.

In ap­ple-pie or­der: Pack­ing the juicy bunches.

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