Apple Industry In India
05 Dec 2018 | 05:20 PM | Haiqa Nowsheen
An apple a day keeps a doctor away. This is not just a saying but this famed fruit is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids and fibers that have diverse health benefits, and it is this chief fruit that forms the "apple of the eye" of Kashmir's exporting industry.
Kashmir is known for its delicacies and beauty besides being known for its juicy succulent apple that rejuvenates one's taste buds with just a sight of it. Kashmir's apple industry saw a great upliftment in past a decade where 71% of the national production of apples come from Kashmir which accounts to around 10 lakh tons a year. The apple production has seen a flight from 6k metric tons in 1950 to 20 lakh ton in 2013 which accounts for 10-12 Mt/Ha, thus giving a close fight to China which is the world's largest producer of apples.
Apple production can easily be increased by bringing the area under cultivation and using the newly developed techniques. The advantage of apple production is that the fruit does not ask for much attention and requires just simple training and pruning. The dwarf plants need to be sown at a distance of 4 to 5 feet and the regular supply of water is to be ensured for the continuous and adequate requirement of moisture. Thus this plant hardly needs much affords for its development.
Despite all these advantages, the industry is dying a slow death because of multiple reasons.
Climate: While natural disasters capture headlines and national attention short term, the work of recovery and rebuilding is long term. Kashmir experienced a mammoth deluge in 2014 and the repercussions are still there. Almost all the sectors experienced a great loss but the horticulture department faced a fatal loss. Apple trees were uprooted in that disaster causing a loss of Rs 1,000cr. to the apple crop in Kashmir threatening a complete collapse of the horticulture industry.
The flood led to the premature falling of leaves or fruits which did not allow the fruits to mature properly and which let to uneconomic harvest. In some areas, there was a huge accumulation of water in and around orchard areas which chocked the respiratory system and dropped the harvest by 50%. Not only this the area of 401 hectares approximately has reportedly been damaged due to erosion caused by the deluge, causing the irretrievable damage. This further led to the loss of areas and production and heavily influenced the horticulture in general and apple industry in particular. The disaster did not stop here, the markets across were not welcoming the fruit fearing the health impacts of the disaster-hit fruit.
Chemical treatment: Faster the fruit ripens, faster can their marketing be done and faster will the profits be generated. This seems to be a motto of all the apple cultivators of the valley. They do not wait for nature to take its own course of action because of the time and risks involved. The fruits become undesirable after the process of natural ripening with high weight loss, desiccation and uneven ripening and thus the suppliers jump in with unnatural measures. Also, the fruit vendors and suppliers claim that artificial ripening not only helps to generate faster revenue for the agriculture industry but also helps keeps prices of these fruits in control. This is because if the demand of these fruits increases than the supply, the prices will automatically skyrocket. Thus to accomplish the demand of the consumer's many traders resort to the artificial methods of ripening fruits. They use fertilizer that is not just harmful but deadly and despite the ban, they are still being used. The conscious consumers thus prefer not to succumb to the temptations of this relishing fruit over their health. The only possible alternative to these deadly chemicals is the use of heating systems but thanks to the government apathy though they have been installed they are reportedly being termed non-functional and limited.
All these factors have led to the decline and woes of the apple industry.