The Kashmir fruit growers have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha seeking a ban on the duty-free import of apples from Iran to India.
They have also alleged that the government has failed miserably to boost this industry, saying top-quality apples are not getting the due price.
Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-Cum-Dealers Association, said that the Galamast variety, which was usually sold at Rs 1,200 per box, now sells at Rs 800 per box in Azadpur mandi.
He said that if the ban is not imposed, the horticulture industry of Kashmir will suffer a massive setback. “We wrote to the Prime Minister and LG to ban the import,” he said and hoped that things will turn in their favour.
Notably, the harvesting season for apples has begun in Kashmir and growers are worried about imports of the cheaper Iranian varieties. “Imports grow during the peak season in Kashmir. Within a month, our main apple variety will be harvested,” Bashir said, adding that they fear that if Iranian apples are imported it may cause heavy losses to them. He said that the presence of Iranian apples in the Indian market results in a drop of 40 per cent to “superior apples” of Kashmir.
Last year, farmers from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh formed a joint group to fight against illegal Iranian imports. Data reveals that Iran exported 1,947.19 tonnes of apples, valuing US$ 1.82 million from April 2021 to January 2022.
At the same time, fruit growers and dealers operating from Asia’s second-largest fruit market of Sopore have alleged that the government has failed miserably to give impetus to this industry, saying top-quality apples are not getting the due price.
Bashir Ahmad Bhat, president of Fruit Mandi Association, said that the profit is relatively less when we take into account the money spent on the business. This has left them worried. “Even grade A apples are not getting the proper price,” he said.
Apple cultivation is one of the mainstays of livelihood for about 3.5 million people and contributes about Rs 8,000 crore to the region. Kashmir produces about two million tonnes of apples and almost two-thirds of it goes to outside markets.
“We are no longer profitable as the rates of fruits have almost been constant while expenditure incurred on the production of apples has increased twofold,” they said. From transport to packaging, prices have gone up with little increase in the price of apples, they added.
Umar Dar, one of the fruit growers, said that one of his orchards spread over 10 kanals entailed an expenditure of Rs 4 lakh but the income generated was only Rs 2 lakh this year. “If the situation persists, soon every grower will realise that apple production is not profitable,” he said. “For the last few years, our expenses have increased due to which our business is affected.”
He pointed out that the 18 per cent GST that they are paying should either be scrapped or reduced, besides the KCC loans immediately waived off. He urged the administration to take measures that will benefit them.