Apple industry needs proper attention

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Jammu and Kashmir is rich in numerous crops like rice, apple, maize, saffron, walnut kernels, apricot, pears, almonds, plum, cherries, and saffron, etc.  But apple is the main cash crop on which livelihood of the people depends. Almost 7 lakh families (33 lakh people) are directly or indirectly involved with the apple industry in the J&K. 1.9 million tons of apples are produced every year. India annually exports apples worth Rs 400 million out of which apples worth Rs 10 million are exported from Kashmir.

Apple is an extremely important source of nutritive diet, this provides a major source of income and employment also. Its production in Jammu and Kashmir and its marketing all over the country as well export promotion to other countries is done under several governments-initiated programs and policies e.g., price policy, credit policy, the supply of packing boxes, quality control, etc. But the impact of these programmes is debatable. Every year apple growers suffer huge losses and some of them feel so disinterested in apple cultivation that they seriously think of shifting towards other sectors. This is the problem that needs to be studied and considerable steps should be taken to ensure that apple growers don’t face constant losses.

Although the horticulture department and national horticulture board had taken some good steps to overcome these losses but still a lot more is to be done for the farmers and to boost the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. The apple industry is mainly dependent on the standard pesticides. Horticulture department should ensure that proper and standard pesticides reach to the farmers. In recent times it has been seen that numerous companies sell low standard pesticides in the valley resulting in the heavy damage to the crop. The horticulture department should ensure the proper way to sell the fruitful and standard pesticides. Additional squads should be made available to check the sale of pesticides and strict laws should be made to punish those selling the below standard pesticides. Horticulture department should start their outlets to sell the standardized pesticides in different locations of the valley to ensure that fruit growers are not cheated. Besides, the department should issue “timely advisories” regarding spray schedule, etc.

Moreover, the horticulture department should start their vending outlets during the post-harvesting season so that farmers should get reasonable price for their hard work. Some farmers are not able to sell their whole produce at the time of the post-harvesting season as produce is more and demand is less. Cold storage units may play a pivotal role in this context. Horticulture department is although making tireless efforts to establish the cold store units but the efforts are not matching the demands of the people. Therefore the government should establish its own cold storage units too so that poor farmers are benefitted. The government should also take care of farmers if their produce gets affected by the climatic conditions like wind, snow, rain, etc. They should be properly and timely compensated. Government should ensure crop insurance and should also declare, once for all, the untimely snowfall, that impacts the fruit, as a natural disaster.

The horticulture department is making good efforts to overcome these things and is making every effort for the betterment of farmers but still a lot more is to be done to boost the apple industry and help the farmers of the valley. Horticulture is back-bone of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. This sector has the potential to put Kashmir’s otherwise shattered economy back on rails and has also tremendous potential of creating jobs.

Need is that the government takes this sector seriously and activates the horticulture department to identify the loopholes and deal with the same. The farmers should be made aware of the modern and scientific techniques to boost the yield and avoid losses.

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