Struggling due to labour shortage, Himachal’s apple growers demand higher MSP
Fruit growers say apple’s MSP should be at least ₹20 per kilogram, term government’s 50 paise increment insufficientUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 18:12 IST
Himachal orchardists are dealing with shortage of labour amid the apple harvesting season, anticipating losses they have asked the state government to increase the minimum support price.
The apple season is scheduled to begin in a week but the orchardists are still scrambling to arrange manpower to help harvest and pack the fruit. For decades, the fruit growers have been dependent on the services of Nepalese labourers. This year, the labour could not return to the hill-state in wake of the pandemic.
The Nepalese labourers have been the backbone of the state’s Rs 4,500-crore apple economy. They help with all kinds of strenuous work, including digging pits, planting saplings, spraying chemicals, plucking, packing and transportation.
Representatives of the Federation of Apple Growers Societies (FAGS) conglomerate of different fruit grower associations had recently met chief minister Jai Ram Thakur and apprised him of their difficulties.
‘70% CROP MAY ROT’
FAGS convener Rajeev Chauhan said, “If the state government fails to provide labour, 70% of the crop will rot in the orchards and the government has told orchardists that it will not be able to provide labour and they must make their own arrangements.”
The apple growers’ association had asked the government to approach the Nepalese government through the ministry of external affairs to allow Nepalese labour to travel to Himachal Pradesh for harvesting apples. They had also urged the horticulture minister to arrange labour from Bihar, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
“Now, farmers will not be able to repay their bank loans. The state’s economy will also be affected,” Chauhan said, adding that the apple economy was the key contributor to the state’s gross domestic product (SGDP).
Chauhan further said that the government should buy apple crop under the minimum support price (MSP) scheme instead of the market intervention scheme (MIS) during these difficult times.
“The MSP for apple should be at least ₹20 per kilogram as the apple production cost comes around ₹15 per kg,” he said.
‘MEAGRE INCREASE IN MSP’
Chauhan said that the government had increased the MSP by only 50 paise per kg to ₹8.5 per kg, which was not sufficient.
“There has been a sudden 30% increase in the prices of trays used for packing apples,” Chauhan said.
Chauhan said the federation had also raised the issue of charging ₹20 per box.
“Agriculture minister Ramlal Markanda has assured us that he will look into the matter,” said Chauhan.
He said the government had fixed labour rates in the market at ₹5 per box, for which the federation was thankful to the authorities.
“The matter of weather-based crop insurance was also raised in front of the chief minister, who assured us that a high-level meeting will be called soon and all the demands and suggestions of the farmers will be taken into account,” Chauhan said.
Congress demand state govt to increase apple support price
State Congress president Kuldeep Rathore on Saturday hit out at state government’s decision to hike apple support price by 50 paise and has demanded the state government to raise support price by at least ₹20 per kilogram.
In a statement issued by Rathore said that orchardists have already suffered huge losses due to hailstorms and lockdown, therefore, the government should increase support money by ₹20 per kg in order to provide relief to them.
He also demanded the state government pay the outstanding amount to orchardists and said that they need money so that they can make arrangements for transportation of their produce to markets.