Despite apple growers being cautioned not to sell their produce to unregulated traders, the former continue to do due to the bad roads, unpredictable weather lack of marketing infrastructure in the state’s apple producing areas including Shimla, Mandi, Kullu and Kinnaur districts. Horticulturalists prefer to do business with unscrupulous traders on roadsides because of lower transportation costs and are often fleeced in the process.
Most of the traders, called ‘aartiyas,’ are not registered with the state marketing board and the latter finds it almost impossible to trace them when apple growers have not been paid for their produce for many years. Since the board lacks manpower and infrastructure keep a check on such traders is an uphill task.
With the apple harvesting season having begun, unregulated apple traders have become a point of discussion. But every time the state government has found it tough to curb the mushrooming growth of makeshift markets in the apple belt despite the fact farmers are being cheated in a big way.
Apple growers say if a marketing facility is provided at their doorstep no one would sell their produce to unregistered traders. “We have to battle the vagaries of weather, bad roads and lack of marketing infrastructure and hence prefer to sell our produce to the ‘aartiyas’ in our neighborhood,” Rattan Lal, an apple grower from Jarol-Tikkar, said.
Though the government has claimed it has set up a proper marketing infrastructure in the state the truth is totally different. There are major markets in Shimla and Parala but none on the national highway till Rampur. Apple growers from Kotgarh, Thanedhar, Baghi, Ratnari, Jarol, Khadahan, Nankhari and Rampur have to go either to the Khegsu market in Kullu district or to Shimla.
Apple growers have demanded the government should regulate unauthorised markets that they claimed had “invited some blacklisted” traders from other states who promised better prices for their produce and provided them a firm date for clearing payments.
Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) managing director HS Baweja said it was mandatory for all fruit commission agents to register with the committee. “Apple growers should inform APMC about every unauthorized trader operating in their area and we’ll take stringent action against them,” he added.
Of the total 87% area under fruit cultivation in the state, apple growing area constitutes about 48%
In 1950-51, the area under apple cultivation was 400 hectares.
1, 07,686 hectares are under apple cultivation in 2013-14
Apple production 7.38 lakh MT in 2013-14
Himachal Pradesh is the second largest apple producer after Jammu and Kashmir