SRINAGAR: The Centre's decision to remove 20 per cent retaliatory import duty on American apples will pile on difficulties for the already stressed Kashmiri horticulture industry, fruit dealers and growers in the valley said.
The farmers and dealers were suffering due to hail storms and unexpected weather conditions, including unseasonal rain, this year, Bashir Ahmad, president of the Fruit Growers and Dealers Association of Kashmir said, "The fruit industry of Kashmir is already struggling".
Reducing 20 per cent import taxes on Washington Apple will add more difficulties and have an adverse impact on the horticulture industry, he said.
"Now, if we won't get adequate rates of the apples, it will be very unfortunate. Though the production of apples is quite high, a decrease in rates will raise our difficulties tremendously. We request the Government of India to immediately roll back the waiver," Ahmad added.
He said this will not only benefit the apple farmers of Kashmir but also those from Himachal and Uttarakhand.
Shahid Chowdhury, General Secretary of the New Kashmir Fruit Association, said the 20 per cent waiver will substantially bring down the prices of Kashmir apples.
"Foreign countries are quite advanced than us. The farmers get subsidies, and technologies and there are a number of schemes that make their products far superior in quality. If tax is lower, growers of Kashmir and apples of Kashmir would not be able to compete with them," Chowdhury said.
Farooq Ahmad Rather, an apple grower, said that in 2017, the government of India raised the duty of the apple from the United States from 50 per cent to 70 per cent.
"But now the unfortunate news came that Washington Apple's duty is reduced by 20 per cent. It will adversely affect the local produce of Kashmir.
"For three to four years, the US product was not affecting our market but now produce from other countries was coming up in the market that is having very bad consequences on growers of Kashmir. We are already at a great loss. I believe this is a wrong decision and the government should look into this," he added.
Mehraj Ahmad, a fruit seller, said if the cost of American apples is reduced, the market of the local apple will get affected.
"As Kashmiri apples are famous all over India, we don't want our apple demand to be reduced. We want our apple industry to grow," he added.