Kashmiri apples

PULWAMA — The apple growers and traders in Kashmir are grappling with heavy losses due to continuous low demand in various markets. Typically, cold storage units are cleared by the end of April, but this year, a large percentage of apples remains stored due to the sluggish market demand.

Speaking to the local news agency KNO, growers and traders expressed concern over the situation. They said that based on current trends, Controlled Atmosphere (CA) units might continue to store last year’s apples until mid-July. “The prices have drastically decreased compared to the rates during the main apple season in October-November 2023,” they lamented.

“The increasing presence of South African apples in retail supermarkets and on e-commerce platforms across the country has exacerbated the situation. This influx has further reduced demand for Kashmiri apples, driving prices down and causing substantial losses for growers and traders,” they said.

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Sameer Ahmad, a grower, said that in previous years, they received around Rs 1500-2000 per apple box in Indian markets during spring. However, this year, there is almost no demand, and prices are declining daily, leading to significant losses, he said, adding that while there was good demand during October-November last year, the current year has seen a sharp decline.

Growers also criticised the government’s slogan of “Sab Ka Sath, Sab Ka Vikas” (Together With All, Development For All), claiming that despite promises to ban apple imports, the ground reality remains unchanged. They urged the government to take immediate steps to address the issue.

Experts say there are multiple reasons for the down market. “The import of apples from various countries, including Africa and Iran, is a major factor,” they said, adding that there is a need for strategic interventions to support apple growers during this critical period.

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CA unit holders said they are also facing challenges as their stores remain occupied. They said that with the upcoming harvest of peaches, cherries, and other products, they need to clear the apple produce to make space.

“Currently, around 25-30 per cent of the produce is still in cold storage units. We hope for an increase in demand to fetch better returns. However, the market remains very low,” said one of the CA unit holders, wishing anonymity.

Notably, approximately three lakh metric tons of apples are stored in different CA storages across Kashmir. On average, Kashmir produces over 20 lakh metric tonnes of apples annually, sometimes reaching up to 25 lakh metric tonnes.

According to the 2017 economic survey in J&K, half of Kashmir’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on the apple industry, with over 3.5 lakh hectares under apple cultivation.

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