Srinagar, Oct 16: A severe hailstorm wreaked havoc in various parts of the valley on Sunday evening, causing significant damage to orchards.
Local residents from Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Bandipora, and other districts informed that the hailstorm severely affected the fruit crops upon which thousands of families in these regions depend.
They have demanded swift action and urged the government to assess the damage and compensate the affected growers.
Growers said they faced extensive damage over the past three consecutive years due to untimely snowfall, hailstorms, and other climatic events. They expressed frustration, saying that despite suffering losses worth lakhs of rupees annually, they receive meagre compensation.
Orchardists said there is an urgent need for a comprehensive crop insurance scheme so that if growers face any damage, they could receive at least 50 percent compensation.
Saleem Ahmad, a grower from Shopian, said that incessant rains during the flowering stage and prolonged dry spells in summer and autumn have led to scab disease, which has affected the size and colour of apples. He expressed concern over the quality of this year’s C-grade apples, lamenting the discontinuation of the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) by the Union government, which previously played a crucial role in procuring inferior-quality apples in the valley.
Bashir Ahmad Bashir, President of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Association and New Kashmir Fruit Association, stressed the need for a crop insurance scheme, especially after this year’s hailstorm hit areas with quality fruit during the harvesting season.
Despite repeated assurances from union ministers and high-ranking officers, the implementation of the crop insurance scheme has been delayed, leaving growers in distress, he said and urged the government to restart the MIS scheme to address the increased proportion of C-grade apples resulting from the untimely hailstorm.
Bashir said the efforts to seek assistance from J&K Bank have also proved futile. “We also requested J&K Bank to come up with some scheme in this regard, but nothing was done,” he said.
The affected growers have appealed to the authorities to support them and safeguard their livelihoods from the aftermath of the natural disaster.