Save horticulture industry
The apple growers of Kashmir Valley have been protesting against the decision of the Government of India to import Iranian apple. The local growers claim that being tax free, these apples are being sold very cheap in comparison to the apples grown in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand. The local apple growers claim that around one crore apple boxes are lying in cold stores and warehouses as the sale of Iranian apples has affected local produce in the Indian market and the rates of Kashmiri apples have declined from Rs 1200 per box to Rs 600 in the past few days in the Mandi’s. The growers claim that the production cost of one apple box is Rs 600 plus Rs 300 per box is the transport charge. Add to it 18 percent GST, they question how local apples can compete with those imported from Iran and sold cheap. They apple growers have made an appeal to the Prime Minister that while ‘make in India’ a popular mantra of his government, why not to focus on ‘produce in India’ and ‘grow in India.’
It goes without saying that horticulture industry is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmirand this is the only sector that has survived in all these years of turmoil. Around 70 to 80 percent of the population is associated with this industry that is one of main job providing industry. Apples are grown in almost all parts of Kashmir Valley and few areas of Udhampur, Doda, Poonch, Ramban and Reasi as well. As per the horticulture census 1999-2000, about 55% of the area in Kashmir is covered under apple production and Kashmir exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple every year as the horticulture industry here is worth around 8000 to 9000 crores. The industry also generates employment. In India apples also come from Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand. However, 75 percent of the total apple production comes from Kashmir alone.
This year, GoI decided to import apples from Iran. Though it is prerogative of the Union Government to decide about the import and export of goods and thus one cannot challenge it for the sake of challenging, it goes without saying that import of Iranian apple has adversely impacted the local apple growers. The apple growers of Kashmir have all along been agitating that the market price of Kashmir apple remains very low compared to what the growers have to spend as the production cost, the introduction of Iranian apple into the market has added to the worries of these growers as the imported one is sold cheap in comparison to the local produce. India is importing horticulture products from Iran including apples without any direct or indirect tax and that is why the said apple is sold in Indian markets cheaper than the domestic produce. Pushed to the wall, the Indian apple growers, particularly from Kashmir Valley, are facing huge economic depression and if corrective measures are not taken by the GoI, the horticulture industry in Kashmir may be hit badly. It is therefore expected that the GoI looks into the matter with a sympathetic attitude towards local growers. One may not expect a blanket ban on the import of Iranian apples but the government can raise custom duty on the imported apples so that they are not sold so cheap rendering local produce to rot.