Listen to the fruit growers!
Market Intervention Scheme…
Though the Lt Governor administration has announced the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for apple growers in Kashmir, the stakeholders are not much impressed. Reason being the delayed response by the administration besides inclusion of only the exportable quality fruit in the scheme. The Union territory administration announced the MIS on 28th of October — a time when apple harvesting had almost concluded in the Valley. While launching the scheme, the administration asserted that it plans to procure 12 lakh MT apple from Kashmir through National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), a cooperative marketing of agricultural produce for farmers in India. The estimated apple production of Valley is 1851723 MT. The administration further claimed that the scheme will usher in an increased growth of horticulture sector in J&K besides the apple-growers and traders will be safeguarded from distress sales. However, the reality on the ground suggests otherwise.
The apple production in Kashmir this year was badly hit by scab for varied reasons. The apple growers say that the standard pesticides and fungicides were in short supply during March and April this year (this is the period during which spraying is done). In absence of standard varieties, the markets were flooded with second-rate spraying material. It was in this backdrop that in June, the apple growers had approached the Lt Governor of the UT as well as the concerned Union Minister and communicated their apprehensions regarding an outbreak of scab and consequent losses to the fruit. It was then that they sought for MIS for disposal of the affected apple. However, the administration instead came out with a scheme for the exportable quality fruit. The problem with the growers seems not that of the marketing of their better quality produce, but the disposal of the scabbed and pre-fallen fruit. As for as the A Grade apple is concerned, the fruit growers don’t need much assistance from the administration as they get better prices the local satellite markets, in comparison to what the government offers.
It may be recalled here that in 2019 too, a NAFED sponsored scheme was announced by the Government of India. It had claimed to purchase 6.36 MTS of apple from Kashmiri farmers. But only one to two percent of the set target was achieved under the plan as per sources within the Horticulture Planning and Marketing Department. To make these schemes successful, the administration needs to have a coordinated liaison with the stakeholders – the apple growers. Horticulture is the backbone of Kashmir’s economy and the administration can not announce schemes about the sector in isolation. Kashmir is an agri-export zone. Its fruit production has reached 24.94 lakh MTs. This sector creates a generous market and jobs in the fertilizer, pesticide, agriculture machinery, processing industry and the trade all over India. Its linkages and value chains support a network of industries and businesses across the country. Supporting this vital sector of the Kashmir economy will have a multiplier effect on the national economy, currently grappling with the worst-ever slide since Independence. It is therefore responsibility of the administration to save this sector. Though it is already late but still the administration can make some corrections in its market intervention scheme and include B and C grade apples in its purchasing list.