DINDIGUL: The dew-pearled apple orchards of Kodaikanal could soon become mere keepsake memories of past excursions for the rest of the country if the state government does not intervene at the earliest to assist apple farmers and protect their livelihoods. The situation is so drastic that apple is now cultivated in less than 10 acres of area in Kodaikanal.
Changing climatic conditions and less than adequate support from the agriculture department are cited as the major factors for decline in the production in the last decade. Red Delicious, Gold Spur, Tropical Beauty, Parlin's Beauty, and KKL-1 are some of the most common varieties grown in the region.
Ganesh Kodaikanal, one of the farmers, said cultivating apples requires three to four years of effort and below 0 degrees Celsius temperatures. "However, the climate is getting warmer each passing year. Around 10 years ago, apples were grown on 20 acres here. The area under cultivation has decreased by half now," he added.
Beginning from land preparation till harvest, a large amount of agri-inputs are required to sustain the orchards, said Flower Growers' Association of Tamil Nadu President R Murthy (70). "The farmers don't receive adequate support from the authorities. The state government should raise awareness among farmers and also fund start-ups that could cultivate new apple varieties. New export avenues for our produce should also be worked out. If our production increases, Tamil Nadu need not have to import such huge volumes of apple from Kashmir and Shimla in the future," Murthy added.
Kodaikanal Horticultural Research Station Head and Associate Professor C Ravindran said since weather conditions suitable for apple cultivation are becoming rare in the region, the government could introduce the farmers to other apple varieties that don't require such chilly conditions.
Sources said that the government has plans to establish a centre of excellence for temperate horticulture crops in Kodaikanal. After this centre is unveiled, we can expect better measures at both planning and execution stages to improve the cultivation.