Hit by unrest, apple exports from Kashmir down to trickle

August 15th, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The supply of apples from Jammu and Kashmir, that accounts for 60 percent of the country’s apples and 50 percent of its exports, will slow down if normalcy is not restored immediately, say worried industry officials. “Apple production starts in August and peaks by September. The fruit growers and exporters equip themselves accordingly, which is unlikely in view of the current impasse,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The trucks carrying apples in August return with cartons to cater to the peak production beginning September. Apple growers and exporters will find themselves at the receiving end,” the official told IANS.

Protesters in the Jammu region, seeking revocation of a Jammu and Kashmir government order of July 1 cancelling the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine management, had blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway at many places. As a result, fruits, the main produce of the Kashmir Valley, had been rotting away.

New Delhi’s key fruit market chief said that things were under control till now, but the situation would certainly worsen if the blockade continued.

According to the National Horticulture Board (NHB), a body under the agriculture ministry, over 60 percent of apples produced in India come from the Kashmir Valley, followed by Himachal Pradesh (30 percent) and Uttarakhand.

An NHB estimate says India produced 1.76 million tonnes of apples in 2006, out of which 1.09 million tonnes came from the Valley, 540,400 tonnes from Himachal Pradesh, and 112,300 tonnes from Uttarakhand.

Apple varieties in the Valley include amri, American trel, delicious (red delicious), maharaji (white dotted red), and hazaratbali (benoni).

“During Aug 1-12 this year, the estimated arrival of apples from the valley was 2,520 tonnes against 3,360 tonnes during the last corresponding period,” said Brahm Yadav, chairman, Delhi Agricultural Produces and Marketing Board (DAPMB).

“Efforts must be made to restore peace and normalcy in the valley, which sent 550,000 tonnes of apples of different varieties to the city market last year,” Yadav told IANS.

The apples from Kashmir go not only to the majority of neighbouring countries but are also exported to Malaysia, Fiji, Norway, Congo, Singapore, the Maldives and Kuwait.

According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), India annually exports apple worth around Rs.400 million (nearly $10 million), out of which Rs.200 million worth of apples come from Jammu and Kashmir.

“Apples from the valley cater to the domestic market as well. The major chunk of the produce in September and October are exported,” said Vinod Kaul, deputy general manager, Apeda.

The Amarnath land row has dealt a severe blow to the state’s horticulture, handicraft and tourism industries - all money-spinners. Its horticulture industry produces fruits worth Rs.25 billion annually.

“Apple production alone is worth Rs.2 billion annually,” said Kashmir Fruit Growers Association president Ghulam Rasool Bhat.

“Besides this, we produce pears, plums, cherries, almonds and walnuts, all of which have markets outside the state and even abroad. If the present standoff is not sorted out, millions of locals would be left without any means of sustenance,” Bhat added.

An industry lobby - the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) - has estimated the state has incurred a cumulative loss of over Rs.15 billion in the last couple of weeks.

“The worst hit industrial sectors include tourism, fruits, hosiery, carpets, handicrafts, dry fruits, tourism, forest based products and herbs and herbal products,” said Assocham president Sajjan Jindal in a statement Wednesday.

The industry chamber has estimated that exports from the Jammu region suffered by minimum 30 percent in view of ongoing agitation, on account of which movements of goods, particularly fruit and other items, have come to a virtual halt.

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