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Forbidden Fruit? Kashmir apple industry battles foreign fruit invasion

04:42 AM May 31, 2024 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
forbidden fruit  kashmir apple industry battles foreign fruit invasion
File/ GK

Srinagar, May 30: The apple growers of Kashmir are staring at massive financial losses as the demand for their produce has plummeted across India, slashing prices by over 50 percent compared to last year.


The influx of imported apples has once again dealt a severe blow to the local apple industry, according to growers' associations.


The grim situation has left apple farmers in a quandary, with their stock stored in controlled atmosphere (CA) stores fetching less than half the money it yielded them in the previous year.


While they have to pay substantial charges to the CA stores for keeping their produce, the drastically reduced prices have forced them to adopt a wait-and-watch approach.


Talking to Greater Kashmir, the Chairman of All Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer expressed grave concerns over the situation.


“This time, the influx of foreign apples has hit our industry badly. We have been appealing to the government to impose taxes on foreign apple imports to safeguard the local apple industry,” he said.


Basheer painted a grim picture of the price erosion.


“On average, an apple box that fetched Rs 2000 last year is currently being sold at Rs 1000. The prices of A-grade apple boxes have dropped by 40 percent, while B-grade apple prices have plummeted by a staggering 60 percent,” he said. “Our stock in CA stores is fetching very low returns, which are not even covering the cost incurred by farmers so far, right from pesticide costs, harvesting, packaging, to CA store charges.”

The apple industry is a crucial component of Kashmir’s economy, contributing significantly to Kashmir's agricultural output and providing employment to thousands of people.

Growers’ associations have urged the government to intervene and provide support measures, including imposing import duties on foreign apples, to protect the local industry from unfair competition.

They have also demanded subsidies and financial assistance to help farmers cope with the losses and ensure the industry's survival.

“The increasing presence of South African and Iranian apples in retail supermarkets and on e-commerce platforms across the country has exacerbated the situation. This influx of imported apples has further reduced the demand for Kashmiri apples, driving prices down and causing substantial losses for growers and traders,” they said.

Experts attribute the downturn in the market to multiple factors, with the import of apples from various countries, including Africa and Iran, being a major contributor.

They emphasised the need for strategic interventions to support apple growers during this critical period.

CA unit holders are also facing challenges as their stores remain occupied with last year’s produce.

With the upcoming harvest of peaches, cherries, and other products, they need to clear the apple produce to make space.