American missionary Satyanand Stokes pioneered apple cultivation in Kotgarh in 1916. Nearly a century after he introduced first American apple varieties in his farmland, growers in Himachal are now facing threat from apple being imported from foreign countries.
In the apple-growing areas known for producing s o me for midable political leaders, influx of foreign apple into the country is again a poll issue.
Apple growers had been consistently demanding increase in the import duty to stop the influx of foreign apples that adversely impacted the marketing of apples produced in Himachal. Currently, import duty on foreign apples is 50%.
Growers demand that the state government should persuade the Centre to increase the import duty on apples. Apples produced in Himachal are also f acing threat from those being smuggled to India via Afghanistan.
Apples from different foreign countries after reaching Iran are being smuggled to the countries that had signed the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement in 2004, including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Imported apple mainly comes from China, US, New Zealand, Chile, Iran and Afghanistan.
China has surpassed other countries in apple export to India as 77,560 metric tonne of apple was imported during 2012-13 at cost of 400 crore. Apple import from China was 60,780 MT in 2010-11.
“Even as there is Congress rule at the Centre and in the state, our horticulture minister Vidya Stokes has failed to persuade government to increase import duty on foreign apples,” asks Rakesh Verma, a former legislator from Theog. There are 15 assembly se gments in the state, where apple is grown, which include Bharmour, Kinnaur, Kullu, Manali, Banjar, Ani, Rampur, Rohru, Theog, Chopal, Pachhad, Karsog, Renuka and Shillai.
“The government has to give an answer as the import duty is a central subject. We have to meet the quality of foreign apple and for that we need quality plants,” said Himachal Seb Utpadak Sangh president Rakesh Singha.
“Due to climate change, apple cultivation is facing problem. Lack of any initiative to protect the domestic crop worsening the situation.
Import duty hike on apple was the major issue since last two-three Lok Sabha and assembly elections but government hardly did anything on it,” says president of Himalayan Eco Horticulture Society, Laxman Thakur.