Shimla: It is no good news for the apple lovers…The apple production in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh has reduced to half this year owing to the same old story of hostile weather.
Even as the apples of early varieties have started rolling out of the state to bigger markets of Delhi, Chandigarh and other parts of the country, the state is likely to produce less than two Crore apple boxes this season.
“The chilling requirement of the apple trees, which is essential for flowering, was not met this time for want of snow in winters, so there is lesser production,” said Prakash Thakur, an apple grower form Kotgarh area, who is presently the Vice Chairman of Horticulture Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (HPMC).
Apples are grown on 94,726 hectares in Himachal Pradesh as per official figures and the entire area is rainfed. Over 70 per cent apples are grown in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh, followed by Kullu and Kinnaur. The apple season extends from July end to October in HP and Kinnaur apple, which is very delicious, comes in the last, in October.Himachal Pradesh contributes 35-40% of the total apple produced in the country. Around 1.7 lakh families are dependent on apple cultivation in Himachal, and the state’s apple economy is around Rs 3000-3500 Crore.
“The produce is very less this time but let’s hope that the growers get good price,” said Horticulture minister, Vidya Stokes, as expressed worries over the illegal mandis having mushroomed here and there on the road head in the upper Shimla district. “These people are cheating the small growers. They buy the fruit, but there is no assurance of getting paid from them on time,” she said.
Stokes said the growers could sell their produce at the bigger mandis, like Dhalli or Parala and should avoid giving their produce to the roadside mandis running in tents.
The concept of local mandis was introduced by the previous BJP government to make it convenient for the growers, particularly smaller ones, who faced great difficulty in marketing their produce in Delhi because of tough transportation. This did give some relief to the growers as it saved their hassle of transportation, but it led to mushrooming of middle men, who just sat anywhere to buy apples, with further tie up with outside businessmen, without any registration.
“The government should regulate the phenomenon of local mandis so that the apple grower who sells his produce there is secure so far as the payment is concerned,” said some small and marginal apple growers. The big apple growers of Shimla still market their produce in Azadpur market in Delhi, though they too are hassled every time because of bad roads and poor arrangements of traffic management of apple trucks.
Weather and marketing apart, there are other problems too. In Shimla district, most of the apple orchards are age old and need gradual replacement. The government started doing some work on the new rootstocks some years ago, but that
will take time to make a difference. “The rising temperatures too have left the apple cultivation unsustainable below the height of 5750 feet.
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