Impact of importing Iranian apples on Kashmir apple market

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By: ER.Ishfaq Khaliq

With over 7,000 different cultivars available worldwide, it’s no surprise that apples are the most widely consumed fruit globally forming different varieties including sweet red varieties, Red Delicious, Fuji or Gala, tangy green, Granny Smith etc. Apple are really beneficial for health and various studies show how significant these are when it comes to weight loss, heart health, fighting diabetes, promoting gut health and even help prevent cancer besides asthma. The fruit is incredibly nutritious that offers multiple health benefits being rich in fibber and antioxidants.

Kashmir is considered to be the major cultivator of apples. Apples are grown everywhere in Kashmir and predominantly in districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Shopian in Kashmir province whereas districts of Udhampur, Doda, Poonch, Ramban and Reasi also contribute in apple cultivation on a smaller scale. As per the horticulture census 1999-2000, about 55% of the area is covered under apple production. According to government figures, Kashmir exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple every year and the horticulture industry is pegged to be worth around 8000 to 9000 crores including the employment it generates.

Kashmir produces 75% of the total apple production in the country and each year the apple production and the rates are something that manage to satisfy the growers here. But this year as the apples from Iran have been imported, there is a huge element of awe and despair. It has impacted the industry in a massive way as the market price of Kashmir apple remains very low compared to the production cost. The growers are upset seeing the market monopoly that has chosen to deal with the Iran apple and ignore the local Kashmir apple. This seems to have hurt growers badly who are not getting even the production cost.

The Iranian apple is being brought to India via sea routes and due to the arrival of large quantities of cheap Iranian apples in the markets, the prices of Kashmiri apples have fallen and demand for famed Kashmiri apples has dropped. Fruit growers, concerned by this are rightfully demanding a ban on the import of Iranian apples or imposing or raising custom duty so that apples from Kashmir do not lose the market.

It is estimated that 3 crore apple boxes are lying unsold in Kashmir as ‘cheap’ Iranian apples flood markets across the country. The major concern is the fruit, estimated as per the latest figures around 2-2.5 lakh metric tons, is currently in cold storage across the Kashmir Valley that is otherwise supplied mainly from January to May and it may also suffer heavily due to imported apples.

Pertinent to mention that Indian government has signed a trade agreement with Iran and Trade treaty negotiation for an India-Iran bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) are underway with a focus on diversifying the bilateral trade basket to include manufacturing, services, and light engineering items besides agricultural produces.

India-Iran bilateral trade registered 23.7 per cent growth in the financial year 2018-19 (FY19), peaking at US$17.03 billion with mineral oil and fuel claiming the lion’s share in Indian imports, accounting for US$12.3 billion. However, this trend has reversed since May 2019, following the lapse of the oil sanction waiver granted to India by the US. In FY20, bilateral trade stood at US$4.77 India mainly imports hydrocarbons and horticulture products from Iran including apples without any direct or indirect tax. India previously, as per available data, could not rely on the previous agreements so they cannot infract the present agreement on mere disturbing the apple market of Kashmir.

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