After stonefruit crops were damaged due to the inclement weather, the meteorological department's forecast of more rain has added to the worries of apple growers in the state even as orchards are in the blooming stage. The prolonged winter has caused losses of around Rs 22 crore to horticultural producers including those of stonefruits and apples.
According to field reports, stonefruit crops grown over an area of around 4,000 hectares across the state have been damaged. As if this was not bad enough, the horticulture department has received reports of losses suffered by apple orchardists in the state's lower altitude areas.
The department's director, Gurdev Singh, said the prolonged winter had severely affected stonefruit crops in many areas of the state. "Annual stonefruit production is rising as is the area under cultivation, but the bad weather has hit stonefruit crops hard this time. Low temperature, rain and hailstorms at the time of blooms is harmful," he said.
A senior horticulture official requesting anonymity said stonefruits are grown on an area of around 25,000 hectares in the state, of which losses on around 4,000 hectares have been reported. "However, the actual losses could be much more. Till the first week of April, losses to the apple crops have also been reports in around 300 hectares. Apple orchards hit by the inclement weather include those in Kotkhai, Rohru, Jubbal, Narkanda, Baghi, Kotgarh, Rampur, Anni, Kullu, Manali and some areas of Mandi," he added.
"The unseasonal rainfall has stopped the flowering growth and the pollination process has also been affected," said Nand Lal, a stonefruit grower from Theog.
In the lower and mid hills, apple trees are in the blooming stage, temperature fluctuation and untimely rains could harm the blooms further affecting the crop perspective. "At this stage bee movement is important for pollination, but in the lower and mid altitude areas there has been very little bee movement due to the sliding mercury. Apple growers have put up beehives but the low temperatures have played spoilsport," Kunal Chauhan, an orchardist from Kotkhai, said.
In shady portion of lower and mid hills, growers were also worried because of frost. However the weather department has predicted dry weather for next two days in lower and mid hills but fresh western disturbance from April 11 onwards is another worrying thing. "The unseasonal rain may lead to frosting in some of orchards," said Kamlender Singh, an apple grower from Kumarsain.
Around 581 metric tonnes of apples were produced in fiscal 2014-15 against 739 mt in 2013-14, 412 mt in 2012-13 and 275 mt in 2011-12, while in 2010-11 there was a record production of 892 mt. The area under the apple crop has increased to 107,686 hectares from 3,025 hectares in fiscal 1960-61. Apples are grown in Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Mandi, Chamba and Kinnaur districts and the business is estimated at around Rs. 3,500 crore.