Apple growers in HP feel the heat of lockdown
Face shortage of agricultural inputs, honey beesUpdated: Mar 30, 2020 18:11 IST
Following the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, farmers in the state are facing the heat at present due to scarcity of agricultural inputs, chemical fertilisers and honey bees.
The horticulture department had purchased some pesticides in December but now they are already running out of stock. Private dealers too are unable to procure fresh stocks. It takes 45 days for testing and procurement of fungicides, said Parkash Thakur, an apple grower in Kotgarh and former vice-chairman of Horticultural Produce Marketing Corporation ( HPMC).
Even private dealers are not receiving their consignments due to restrictions in the transportation of goods, said Thakur.
Fruit growers had demanded that the government should allow the movement of beekeepers from the neighboring states. Honey bees are one of the main and natural pollinators used in apple orchards, and by stone fruit (plum, cherry, almonds, apricot) growers.
“Farmers in the state have orchards in more than one district and this time is critical for the crop harvesting. The government should allow relaxation to procurement agencies and farm operations so that farmers should continue their operations smoothly, said Progressive Apple Grower Association president Lokinder Singh in a letter to chief minister Jai Ram Thakur.
The shortage of agricultural labourers has added to their woes. Nepalese constitute the major workforce in the apple-growing areas of the state. Amidst the curfew and lockdown, the apple growers are facing a dearth of agricultural labourers.
Apple constitutes about 49% of total fruit production
Apple is the most important fruit crop of the state as it constitutes about 49% of the total fruit production. The area under apple cultivation has increased from 400 hectares in 1950-51 to 13,154 hectares in 2018-2019. The apple economy was pegged at ₹3,200 crore in 2012 and rose to ₹4,800 crore this year.
Ensure smooth supply of bees, agri inputs: CM tells officials
Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur on Monday reviewed the availability of insecticides, pesticides and other plant protection materials and directed the horticulture department to ensure a smooth supply of pesticides to farmers. He said all the plant protection material required by farmers should be provided nearer to their homes to avoid overcrowding at horticulture centers. “About 20,000 colonies of bees were being transported from neighboring states and would be distributed to the horticulturists as per the requirement and demand,” said Thakur.
He added that in order to provide anti-hail nets to the horticulturists, 25 lakh square meters nets had been requisitioned from manufacturers in Gujarat which would be transported very soon.