Iranian apples in mandis worry Kashmir growers; write to PM Narendra Modi

Published on Jan 19, 2022 01:53 AM IST
The arrival and export of Iranian apples have marred the prospects of Kashmir growers. Say they have brought this issue to the notice of PM Narendra Modi
From the last two weeks, growers across Kashmir have expressed concern over the sale of Iranian apples in mandis without the imposition of tax. Bashir Ahmad Bhat, president, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union, said they have brought this issue to the notice of PM Narendra Modi and Union agriculture minister. (HT File Photo/ Representational image)
From the last two weeks, growers across Kashmir have expressed concern over the sale of Iranian apples in mandis without the imposition of tax. Bashir Ahmad Bhat, president, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union, said they have brought this issue to the notice of PM Narendra Modi and Union agriculture minister. (HT File Photo/ Representational image)
ByMir Ehsan, Srinagar

In summer, young growers from Sopore Asif and Adil purchased thousands of apple boxes across north Kashmir with the hope that they will reap good dividends by selling those apples outside state fruit mandis in winter.

The arrival and export of Iranian apples have marred the prospects of these young growers, who say that now over 2,500 apple boxes are lying inside their house at Saripora, Rafiabad, which is known as the apple bowl of north Kashmir and is close to Asia’s second-largest fruit mandi at Mazbough, Sopore. “If market doesn’t stablise then we are staring at a bleak future. I recently sold a few hundred boxes in Jammu as there were no takers in big mandis outside the state. Even in Kolkata, after spending huge freight, I did get a good price for my produce,” said Adil Malik, who after completing a master’s degree in education from Pune started doing his own business. “Last year, I had purchased 2,000 boxes, but this year I and my brother took a big risk by purchasing 4,000 boxes during summers. So far, we have just sold less than half of our apples as we didn’t get the good money that we had desired for our produce. The apple box that usually used to fetch us 1,100 to 1,300 is currently sold at 600 to 700 per box,” he says, adding that if the market doesn’t stabilise then they will lose huge money. “Due to slump in mandis, we haven’t paid to growers from whom we had purchased apples. All this is due to apples from Iran,” he said.

Adil’s brother Asif too is perturbed due to the present market condition. “We had been eyeing to earn good money, but now we fear losses,” he said.

From the last two weeks, growers across Kashmir have expressed concern over the sale of Iranian apples in mandis without the imposition of tax. At Sopore and Srinagar fruit mandis where apples are brought by big commission agents, the growers held protests after they failed to fetch a good price for their produce.

As per official records, 7 lakh farming families (approximately 35 lakh people) are directly or indirectly associated with the sector. The apple trade contributes to around 8% of the UT’s GDP and the government is trying to increase production by introducing high-density plantations.

Growers allege that the arrival of apples from Iran has increased from the last year which is damaging the fruit industry not only in Kashmir but also in Himachal Pradesh.

“Compared to the previous year, this time production was very good in Kashmir. Till Diwali we had good business. Once the apples started arriving from Iran, the rates have come down more than 50 percent,” said Bashir Ahmad Bhat, president, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union.

He said, “If we have our production then why we are allowing apples from Iran here. This will ruin not only the apple industry in Kashmir but also in Himachal Pradesh. We have brought this issue to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union agriculture minister and other officials but so far the issue hasn’t been resolved.”

Bhat said that allowing apples from Iran via Mumbai, Cochin ports or Afghanistan via the Wagah border will cause severe damage to the trade. “Last year Iranian apple came via Afghanistan without any tax and everybody knows that Afghanistan doesn’t produce apples. We fear if things aren’t stopped in coming years, the quantum of apples from Iran will see a spike and there won’t be any takers for our apples,” he said.

Even J&K’s horticulture department has shot a letter to the Central government highlighting the issue of import of Iranian apple/kiwi under the name of Afghanistan that has certain tax relaxation and sought regulation of import of apples from Iran to safeguard the local apple industry of J&K and Himachal Pradesh.

Director, horticulture, Ajaz Ahmad said more than 16 lakh metric tonnes of apple have been exported from Kashmir and sold already this season. “This time

1.87 lakh metric tonnes are in cold stores. I don’t think the apple from Iran has any potential to damage our industry. Usually, the apples stored in cold stores are sold April onwards,” he said.

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