Snow-covered Lahaul valley in the higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh is gearing up to grow the latest apple varieties imported from the United States.
Apple growing is being tried out for the first time in the valley, some 450 km from Shimla. The adjoining Spiti Valley grows local apple varieties.
The lowest farmland in Lahaul and Spiti is at least 11,000 feet above sea level and goes up to around 15,500 feet. Compared to Spiti, the Lahaul Valley receives more snowfall. So growing apples is a greater challenge for the tribals in the valley.
"We have imported 2,668 saplings from the US which include scarlet, galegala, granny smith, super chief and red fuji varieties," said R Selvam, the district magistrate of Lahaul and Spiti.
"Though each plant has cost the government Rs 850, we will subsidize the cost by selling it for Rs 150," he said.
"There are already 445 applications from farmers keen to try out the new American varieties," he said.
The saplings must be planted within the next few days, say officials.
As the Lahaul Valley continues to be cut off from the rest of the country since December, the plants have had to be flown in by helicopter to Keylong, the district headquarters of this remote district.
Shimla district is the heartland of apple production in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh and accounts for around 80 per cent of the entire apple produce. American varieties were introduced here in the early 20th century.