January 2016 News

Sweet Kashmir Apples Feel The Pinch Of Its Foreign Cousins

15 January 2016

Srinagar: Sweet apples have turned sour for fruit growers in Kashmir. Centre's decision to relax the import restriction on foreign apples has sounded a death knell to Kashmir's fledgling fruit industry which is expecting to incur immediate financial losses of Rs 400 crore. This followed the notification of Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) allowing the import of apples through seaports and airports in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Cochin. The import has also been allowed through land port and airport in Delhi and other land borders of India. In September last year, Centre had restricted the import of apple by allowing its inbound shipment only through Nhava Sheva port in Maharashtra. Kashmir valley is one of the largest producers of apple in the country with production touching 19.43 lakh metric tonnes in 2015-16. The apple production in 2014-15 was 11.70 lakh metric tonnes only, given the devastating floods of September 2014. 'When the ports will be opened for import of apples, the market will be flooded with foreign varieties which are cheaper and presentable. Transportation cost will drop considerably. Therefore, we will suffer huge losses. Since 20 to 30 per cent of apples sold through stores, we will suffer Rs 400 crore loss immediately,' Bashir Ahmad Basheer, president New Kashmir Fruit Association, told dna. Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir's economy with 23 lakh people associated with this sector. More than 2.37 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 65 per cent comprise of the apple orchards. 'Our apple is sweet, tasty and famous. But we cannot match the technology of foreigners. Plus their packaging and presentation is very good. The sub-standard pesticides and fungicides are also complicating our woes. Therefore, the government should should step in and levy duties on the apple imports to save local industry,' said Basheer. What is more worrying is the fact that Chinese apples will flood the markets making it very tough for the local industry to survive. 'Apple imports from China have already started and it will affect our local produce definitely. Earlier walnut suffered badly now it is the turn of apples. We cannot compete with them. Their packaging is good. Colour of their apple is better than us,' Rafiq Ahmad Hakeem, director J&K Horticulture Marketing Department, told dna. Experts said the growers and the authorities need to wake up and take precautionary measure otherwise the horticulture sector of the state will be ruined. 'We have to take some protective measures. Our apple production may cross 25 lakh metric tonnes in next five to six years. Growers may suffer huge losses this year alone. Though we have huge domestic market, bulk apple imports will hit us badly,' said Hakeem.