J&Ks apple trade in a shambles

Srinagar, May 25 | Updated: May 26 2007, 05:54am hrs
Apple farming may be one of the major sources of revenue in Jammu and Kashmir but fruit growers say unless their trade is granted an industry status, it will continue to suffer.

In Kashmir alone, more than 5 lakh families are directly associated with the Rs 1,200 crore business. Fruit growers say their business would not survive in the coming decade unless something is not done to revive it. We will soon be deprived of our livelihood if the government fails to take concrete steps to revive the business in the state, said Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of All Jammu and Kashmir Fruits and Vegetable Growers Association. Our first demand is that the fruit trade be given the status of an industry so that we are entitled to related benefits, Bhat said . He attributed scab infection, adulterated fungicide and absence of cold storage facility for preservation of fruits, besides government apathy as other reasons for the dip in business.

According to the figures available, 400,000 tonne of apple are ruined by the scab every year. Other diseases like alternaria, red-might and powdery mildew also spoil the crop. Fruit growers also say that huge inflow of spurious fungicides damage their orchards.

Spurious fungicides are responsible for the spread of these diseases, said Aijaz Ahmed Dar, a horticulture expert. Experts say introduction of scab-resistant varieties developed by the Shier-e-Kashmir Agriculture University can control the diseases.

Two new varieties of apple Shireen and Firdous have been developed by the university which are scab resistant, said Ahmed. But, according to Bhat, the fungicide industry is behind the blocking of scab-resistant apples trees in the market. However, an officer of the state horticulture department said there is no record of any adulterated fungicide in the state. We havent had any complaints. Our department conducts five tests every year and the latest report found no evidence of adulteration, he said.

Adding to the woes of the fruit growers is the fact that they have no control over the fragile fruit once it leaves the orchards.