Apple basket country of the world
Srinagar / New Delhi, October 30 (IANS): Kashmiri apples (tsonth) have been mentioned several times in history, as early as the 7th century when a Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang sang about the sweetness of the fruit. The high altitude temperate region of Kashmir is known to be the ideal fruit growing land. During his reign in the Valley, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (15th century) imported numerous grafts of fruit and laid out orchards to cultivate them. But Kalhana’s historical account in Rajtarangni proves that the cultivation of apples in the valley is a matter of more than 3,000 years ago.
King Nara in 1000 BC. Several wild species of the fruit indicate their age and their relationship with the valley. Today apples are synonymous with Kashmir; the valley is the basket of apples of the world which cultivates 113 varieties of fruit.
Horticulture is one of the main industries in the valley – especially the apple industry, which is a source of income for 55% of the Kashmiri population generating income of Rs 1,500 crore per year. The administration of the Union territory is focused on establishing high density orchards that can accommodate more plants with a higher yielding variety – grade A quality apples.
Many neighborhoods have experienced a change of landscape recently; hundreds of acres of land used by brick kiln makers and rice paddies have been converted into apple orchards to support farmers. The government helped farmers set up the factory and infrastructure with a 50% subsidy and free consultations on topics like cutting, pruning, grading, etc. These farmers earn around Rs 1 lakh per kanal by switching to growing apples.
To boost the horticultural industry, the J&K administration is promoting new scientific techniques and methods for farmers to help them produce this sweet king of the valley. They are setting up free knowledge centers to educate growers on topics such as the purpose, dosage and timing of urea spraying, to dispel misconceptions about crop diseases, and to standardize yield. The government provided agricultural machinery like tractors and sprayers and trained farmers in marketing and packaging skills. It changed the economic profile of the industry.
Besides the economic value, the conversion of paddy fields to high-yielding apple orchards has created new employment opportunities. A year ago, the Union government approved the MIS (Marketing Intervention Scheme) for the horticultural sector, which continues to ensure optimal prices for apple growers and the necessary boost to the economy. It also provides insurance coverage, thus stabilizing farmers’ incomes. As 12 LMTs (Lakh Metric Tons) of apples can be produced under this program, employment opportunities for ancillary services such as transportation, orchard cleaning, labeling and categorization are also increasing. The MIS device launched in September 2019 was hailed by apple growers because it was a glimmer of hope after the unrest in the valley following the repeal of article 370.
The cold storage facility in the valley also proved to be a boon for the farmers – losses were minimized to a large extent. Prices have stabilized at a nice range; a 10 kg box of apples charges between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,800, depending on the quality. Cold stores located in Shopian, Pulwama, Lassipora and a few other areas in the north can store up to 2.5 LMT of apples.
Now apples are purchased directly by the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives Marketing (NAFED) from producers / aggregators at optimal prices and payment is made promptly to parties through the bank. With no middlemen, late payments, and reduced distress sales, farmers can focus stress-free on their orchards. The government has also guaranteed NAFED 2,500 crore rupees for this process; and losses, if any, should be shared equally between central government and UT administration.
Kashmir, despite militant activities and cross-border terrorism, has always shown an exceptional interest in the fruit trade, being the largest producer and supplier of quality apples for centuries. With the new road projects of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL, Department of Road Transport and Highways), the Kashmir apple sector is only looking to compete for the world’s top position. The convenience of good roads will increase the reach of farmers and boost tourism; India is also discovering the potential of orchard tourism in the region. The success story of this fruit would have taken off a long time ago had it not been for the political turn of the state of yesteryear when, in 1990, activism put an end to a European project to introduce new high rootstocks. density.
Fast forwarding today, the success of new apple varieties – M-106 (a semi-dwarf apple rootstock introduced in 2004) and M-9 (a dwarf apple rootstock introduced in 2016) has doubled and tripled the profit of apple growers. In fact, the M-9 variety has the added benefit of granting âguaranteed yieldsâ because their size is so small that unpredictable climatic conditions like hailstorms cannot harm them; anti-hail nets can protect them easily. M-9 rootstocks also extend the harvest season by four months; from June to November, the trees bear regular fruit – a phenomenon never seen before. Thanks to the Center for the ‘Apple Push’, Kashmir is witnessing a new sunrise today.