SRINAGAR: The Government administration in Jammu and Kashmir has declared November 3 snowfall in the Valley, which caused extensive damage to agriculture and horticulture crops and produce, as a special natural calamity and enhanced the quantum of relief of damage to the farmers.
The State Executive Committee (SEC) of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) headed by Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam approved notifying the November 3 and 4 snowfall in Valley as a State Specific Special Natural Calamity for the purpose of providing additional relief/assistance to the affected farmers from SDRF.
The season's first snowfall on November 3 and 4 had caused extensive damage to the agriculture and horticulture crops and produce in the Valley. The farmers had incurred heavy losses as their standing apple crops were damaged by the snowfall. An official spokesman said the SEC observed that early snowfall has not only affected the returns this year but is also likely to affect the returns from the horticulture crops for the next 2-3 years.
The existing scale of relief for damaged orchards being quite inadequate, it was considered essential to enhance the scale of relief given as per the extant SDRF norms for the perennial crops. The SEC has decided to categorize apple as a perennial crop given the fact that it takes many years for fruition and approved enhancement of the quantum of relief from Rs 18000/Ha to Rs 36000/Ha for damage to perennial crops like apple.
The payment of compensation at enhanced rates would not exceed Rs 4000/affected farmer(s) having land less than one hectare and shall cover sown/planted areas only. Chief Secretary directed that Rs 10 Cr should be kept at the disposal of Deputy Commissioners as an immediate measure for disbursement of cash relief among the bonafide affectees as per SDRF norms.
According to horticulture official, the orchards across the Valley suffered damages during last week's snowfall with south Kashmir being worst-hit."The orchards in Kulgam suffered 50 per cent damages, while the orchards in Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag, also in south Kashmir, have suffered damage of 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. In north and central Kashmir, the damage is between 20 to 30 per cent," he said.
The average annual apple production in Kashmir is 17 lakh metric ton. As per Economic Survey Report of 2017, apples worth Rs 6,500 crore were exported from the Valley. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) has pegged the losses to agriculture and horticulture sector due to snowfall at about Rs 500 crores while the fruit growers' associations have put the losses at around Rs 1000 crores.