n a promising apple village of district Anantnag, Sirhama, the month of September used to be a busy month. It used to be a month of dreams, aspirations, hope and the result of hard work as it is the month in which the people start the apple harvesting. Throughout the year, the harvesting season is cherished and looked as a source of peace and prosperity and a panacea for all the ills.
The apple farming is the sole economic activity of almost 98% people here in Sirhama, hence It is this season which determines the yearly plans of the entire population of the village, that is, the bread butter, clothing, shelter, the education of the children, the marriage of the young, construction and maintenance of the religious places and even the medicines for the old.
But this year there is a complete lull and there seems hardly any enthusiasm among the people in this month. The people are sceptical and in great dilemma and there is no rush towards the apple harvesting and labourers too are very less in number in the village. This is not the story of Sirhama only, infact, the entire population related to the apple farming in Jammu and Kashmir is in the same condition and situation.
The main reason for this lull and pessimism is the low rates and down market for apples. The market is down and it has crushed the hopes and aspirations of the people. The people have made huge investments in this sector. They started working for this season in the month of November last year and have made big spendings in the form of fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, apple boxes, machinery and manpower. For these spendings most of the people have availed different types of loans and grants with heavy interest rates. In short the common man this time is in full debt and owes a lot to different firms and corporate offices.
The people are eagerly waiting for market prices to go up so that they may get good returns for the produce. They are observing the marketing strategies very keenly and pray with folded hands for the upward trend in the market prices. More than this the people are eagerly waiting for the governments intervention and are expecting it’s support in normalising the markets in their favour. They are looking for the government to lend them a helping hand and bail them out from the grave situation. In this regard they are hopeful that the government will extend the policies of “Atmanirbar ” and “Make in India” to the horticulture sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmiri apple is in utmost need of government patronage. There should be an organized way of supporting and promoting the apple. The industry should have a recognised brand name and for the promotion of this brand a full time marketing agency should be there. The government should regulate the imports of apples from the foreign countries in such a way that it may neither hit nor hurt the indigenous grower. The indigenous grower should get the privilege and preference in the domestic market hence may get most of the benefits.
The apple industry in Jammu and Kashmir lacks the basic facilities related to the production and marketing of the world famous crispy kashmiri apples. The industry is in dire need of government attention as the harvesting season is on its peak and the abnormal market fluctuations have rendered the growers in great dilemma. The growers of the valley demand that:
The government should fix the appropriate rates of the apple in response to the cost incurred on its production and the high inflation.
There is a growing demand for the availability of the cold storage in the different zones and the prominent fruit belts like that of Dochnipora bloc of the Anantnag district. It may provide an opportunity to the growers that they may sell their produce once the market is in their favour.
The availability of the local markets. The local markets save the grower financially and there are less chances for fraud.
The truck unions in the valley are manipulating the situation and are charging very high fears. In this regard there should be proper management of the transportation in response to the demand and supply so that the poor grower may not suffer.
There should be free flow of the fruits to the different markets at the national level. The highway needs immediate attention for repair and the transportation of the fruits ought to get preference.
It is the government’s attention which is of utmost importance at this juncture as the corporate houses and even the multinational Companies have made their entry in the apple industry and are monopolising the markets. It is the government only which has the mandate and the authority to influence their policy making and can reschedule the fixed rates in favour of the grower.
Let the government intervene as soon as possible and let the apple be the source of happiness and prosperity for the rural population and a good economic booster for the entire UT.(CC)
Author can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org