Mubashir Aalam Wani
Srinagar, Sep 9: Farmers across the valley are worried due to the prolonged dry weather conditions, which they said has degraded the quality of apples.
Kashmir has been witnessing dry weather conditions with minimum rainfall since August. According to India Meteorological Department data related to the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), approximately 80 percent of the area in Kashmir region (8 out of 10 districts), has been impacted by moderate to extreme dryness between August 3rd and August 30th.
Weather department has now forecasted the dry weather to prevail for the next 10 days.
As such this prolonged dry spell has impacted the quality of apple, which the farmers claimed could lead to heavy loss to the horticulture sector.
“August and September are the two crucial months for apple crop. During these two months, regular spells of rain help the fruit gain size and colour. Unfortunately, we have been witnessing a dry spell for the last one month now,” said Sajad Ahmad Mir, a farmer from north Kashmir’s Sopore.
While the high-density apple variety has hit the markets, growers claim that the traditional varieties require regular spells of rain before harvesting.
“Almost 80 percent of the farmers grow traditional varieties of apple crop. From north to south Kashmir, apple quality is not up to the mark yet,” said Fayaz Ahmad Khan, a grower from Baramulla.
Following the rainfall deficit, the growers are now managing the irrigation of their orchards. “But this is not enough. Even there is not abundant water in the canals and streams to irrigate our orchards. The condition is such that leaves are wilting, and the size of the apples is smaller than usual,” said Mohammad Shafi Bhat, a grower from Pulwama.
President North Kashmir Fruit Grower Association, Fayaz Ahmad Malik said the prolonged dry spell could also delay the harvesting of apple.
“Right now, a very small quantity of apples is reaching fruit mandis. We already witnessed a huge loss due to the hail storms and now this dry spell is further damaging our crop. There are chances that apples could fall off from trees if the dry spell continues,” he said.
Malik said they have demanded the government to implement the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for procuring low-grade apples. “So far the government hasn’t implemented the scheme. If implemented, it can restrict losses of our growers,” he added.
Pertinently, horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy and the valley’s biggest economy, Rs 10,000 crore apple industry, providing a livelihood to around 3.5 million people in the region.
Horticulture contributes eight percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.