SRINAGAR: Apple growers in Kashmir are staring at huge losses as about 50-60 per cent of the apple crop across the Valley has been hit by scab. Apple scab is a disease caused by fungus resulting in a fall in the production of high-grade apples as well as overall production.
Bashir Ahmad Bashir, the chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union, said the apple crop across the Valley was hit by scab as the growers could not spray pesticides on time due to Covid-19 lockdown in March-April. He alleged that sub-standard pesticides were available in markets, but they had no option but to use these which failed to save the crop.
According to Bashir, scab was under control in the Valley in the last few years and only 10-15 per cent of the crop used to be affected.
“This year 60-70 per cent apple crop has been hit,” he said. Apple farming is one of the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with a turnover of about Rs 1, 200 crore a year. In Kashmir, around 19 lakh metric tonnes apple is produced each year and about 7 lakh families are involved in the trade.
According to Bashir, the scab has also led to a fall in the quality of apples. “We have more B and C grade apples this year,” he said. Mohammad Ashraf Wani, president of Fruit Growers and Dealer Association Shopian, also expressed the same concerns. He asked the government to come up with a Market Intervention Scheme (MIS).
The growers want the J&K government to follow the Himachal model and purchase B and C grade apples from them.
“The Himachal Pradesh government buys B and C grade apples and these apples don’t reach markets, resulting in greater demand for A grade product,” he said.
Imam Din, Director in the Horticulture Planning & Marketing Department, admitted that scab has hit the apple production in Kashmir.
“There was untimely rainfall and hailstorm also,” he said. According to Din, the growers won’t have a problem in selling A and B grade products but would find problems in marketing C grade apple.