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Declare apple crisis in Kashmir Valley as nation calamity, demands AIKSCC

The delegation noted that horticulture, which is the backbone of the state's economy, has suffered a double thrashing this season. Just when a good crop had given the farmers hopes for a recovery from last year's losses, the political turmoil sinc...

ET Bureau|
Nov 16, 2019, 04.39 PM IST
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Kashmir produces 75% of the total apple production in the country and the horticulture industry of Kashmir has a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore annually.
PUNE: Returning from a visit to the Kashmir Valley, a delegation of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee - a nationwide platform of 250 farmers' organisations- has demanded that the unseasonal, heavy snowfall in the Kashmir valley must be declared a “National Calamity" and farmers must be adequately compensated for the losses suffered due to natural disaster as well as the lack of transport and cold storage assistance due to the political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5.

“The three-day visit by a seven-member delegation to assess the loss suffered by farmers of Kashmir was the first visit by any such independent delegation after 5th of August this year. Besides holding official meetings with representatives of Fruit Growers' Associations from all districts of Kashmir and The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Delegation held a public hearing with local farmers and farm leaders at Kulgam. The Delegation had a firsthand experience of the plight of the farmers by field visits to Ganderbal, Pampore, Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantanag,” am AIKSCC release said.

The delegation noted that horticulture, which is the backbone of the state's economy, has suffered a double thrashing this season. Just when a good crop had given the farmers hopes for a recovery from last year's losses, the political turmoil since 5th of August has badly affected the transportation industry and procurement market; thus all stake holders in the fruit industry were unable to harvest and store the fruits in cold storage, on time. The turmoil hurt the farmers in multiple ways:

The release said: “Crops like pear, cherry and grapes which were harvested in August were stranded due to complete shutdown in the valley and could not be marketed, leading to near total loss for the farmers.”

Apple harvesting was to begin in September but was delayed as farmers could not go out for picking

“Once harvesting began, non availability of telephones for first 60 days and non access to internet even now meant that the communication between apple growers, transporters and traders was snapped, causing a disruption in the demand-supply chain,” the release said.

It added, “ Farmers could not bring apples to the procurement markets since trucks were not allowed to go to the villages and farmers were forced to bring their produce to the Highways. This caused delays, inconvenience and additional costs
Transport cost almost doubled due to prevailing security threat and unavailability of trucks. Frequent transport blockades and closure of highways resulted in further delays and loss of quantity and quality of apples during transportation.”

The government authorised NAFED to carry-out procurement but this operation failed miserably, said AIKSCC members. “Lack of experience and infrastructure meant that NAFED has procured 0.01% of the estimated produce (1.36 lakh boxes out of more than 11 crore boxes). The farmers have complaints that NAFED procurement had disruptive effect since it has sold apple in the sale market at lower prices that brought down the wholesale apple prices in the procurement market,” they said.

The delegation observed that the sheep breeders also suffered badly due to the turmoil leading to sharp reduction in the sale of goats and sheep.

Besides this, the horticulture in the state has been badly hit by untimely and very heavy snowfall throughout the valley on 7th November. The snow fall has been heavy, ranging from 18 inches to 1 meter at different regions and trees which are 30 to 35 years old are totally damaged. The AIKSCC Delegation witnessed extensive damage to apple trees, which will affect production for the next 3-4 years. Due to heavy snowfall, growers were unable to move out and harvest the crop and store it. Estimates of the damage to apple orchards vary from 35% (estimated by the Director, Horticulture) to over 80% (reported by farmers and farm organizations) in regions like Shopian, Ramnagar, Kellar, Jamnagar, Sedaw and Mirpura .

The impact on saffron crop was much worse: this year the yield is expected to be between 1/6th to 1/8th of the average production.

“Surprisingly, the Kashmir administration has not declared it a calamity, nor has it initiated any field level survey so far to estimate the extent of damages. There was no consultation with the representatives of growers as well as commerce and industry by the administration; this points to the failure of the government machinery when the people are facing severe miseries. Regular supply of electricity, road connectivity and supply of essential items in villages also are major issues of concern,” observed the delegation.

Kashmir produces 75% of the total apple production in the country and the horticulture industry of Kashmir has a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore annually. If 70% loss (as is being claimed by the growers and representatives of commerce and industry) is true, then this will devastate the livelihood of the people of Kashmir for years to come. Farmers who attended the meetings with AIKSCC Delegation have expressed their concern that if not assisted by the authorities, peasant suicides may happen in the valley due to economic hardship.

Hence AIKSCC feels the Government has to firmly stand with and support the farmers of Kashmir. AIKSCC urges all farmers and agriculture workers across the country to express solidarity with the farmers of Kashmir valley at this hours of crisis.

In view of this extensive damage, the AIKSCC has demanded declaration of the Apple Crisis in the valley as a Natural Calamity eligible for NDRF

Conducting of immediate comprehensive field survey by revenue officials to assess the actual loss, compensation to farmers for damages from the NDRF for actual loss as well as for long term impact due to damage and compensation to tapple growers as well as growers of saffron, pear, grape, cherry and sheep breeders.

“Write off the loans of affected farmers and in the meanwhile reschedule KCC loans/extend long term interest free loan to all Apple and other Fruit growers,” demanded AIKSCC.
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