J&K: Growers Express “Helplessness” Over Lifting Of Import Duties On Apples, Walnuts

Political Parties, Trade Bodies Urge Reconsideration of Import Duty Decision

The announcement by the government of India to lift additional import duties on several American products, including apples, walnuts and almonds during the recently concluded G-20 summit has raised “concerns” among the Kashmiri fruit growers, saying the move can significantly impact their livelihoods and survival of the fruit industry.

A Blow to Kashmiri Farmers

The lifting of additional import duties has left Kashmiri fruit growers in a state of perplexity. They are concerned that cheaper imports may flood the market, leading to a decrease in demand for the local produce. 

According to the growers, Kashmiri apples, walnuts, and almonds have earned a reputation for their quality, but with the removal of import taxes, the prices of imported alternatives may become more attractive to consumers, thereby affecting the financial stability of local growers.

Political Parties Call For Decision Reconsideration

The Political parties in Kashmir Valley have urged the Centre to reconsider its decision to remove additional duties on apples, walnuts and almonds imported from the United States (US). The local stakeholders have raised concerns over the survival of fruit industry in times to come.

Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the decision “will have a devastating effect on local growers in J&K already grappling with huge losses post-2019 (abrogation of erstwhile state’s special status)”. “Hope @PMOIndia reconsiders,” Mufti posted on X formerly Twitter.

Calling it “grave injustice”, former chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said the Government’s move will not only impact horticulture in Kashmir but in other states such as Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. 

J&K: Growers Express "Helplessness" Over Lifting Of Import Duties On Apples, Walnuts
Kashmiri fruit growers are concerned that an increase in imports will cause price fluctuations that will make it harder for them to manage their production and investments properly. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

“To please the Americans and other countries, the Centre is putting its own people in a tight spot. If not Kashmir, the Centre should have thought of Himachal and Uttarakhand. We don’t need apples from outside. We don’t need walnuts and almonds from outside for some cheers. The Centre should rethink about it. Local producers should get the relief, not outsiders,” NC Vice President Omar Abdullah wrote on X.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that lifting additional duties would lead to “economic distress, huge losses to J&K and Himachal fruit Industry”. He urged the Centre to revisit the decision in the larger interests of growers.

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“This decision will severely impact the fruit industry in J&K and Himachal, while J&K growers have already undergone tremendous losses, be it the unfavourable situation or the severe climatic conditions,” Mir said.

Burstiness of the Market

The burstiness of the market is another factor that worries Kashmiri fruit growers. Growers say that burstiness which refers to sudden fluctuations in demand can be challenging for them to navigate. Kashmiri fruit growers fear that a surge in imports may cause an unpredictable price fluctuation, making it difficult for them to plan their production and investments effectively.

Helplessness Among Stakeholders

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, president of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealer’s Association while speaking to the Ground Report termed their position as a “state of helplessness” on the issue, saying that the lifting of additional import duties on apples will further weaken the growers who are trying to revive their fruit business.

President Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealer’s Association Bashir Ahmad Bashir says their harvesting happiness went short lived after GoI lifted additional import duties on apples, walnuts. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

He said, “This decision is affecting us, the stakeholders, not just the business. It will directly impact the livelihood of marginal farmers who have small orchids.”

The central government announced lifting additional import duties on apples and walnuts, which made the farmers in the valley no longer content with the fruit harvesting phase, according to Bashir.

The Plight of Small-Scale Growers

The stakeholders associated with the fruit industry say that the small-scale fruit growers in Kashmir, who rely heavily on local markets are likely to be the most affected by the removal of additional import duties. 

“These growers lack the resources to compete with large-scale commercial imports, making it harder for them to sustain their businesses. The livelihoods of many small-scale growers are at stake as they face the threat of being overshadowed by cheaper imported alternatives”, stakeholders explain.

Diminishing Hopes – Can Industry Survive?

Speaking with Ground Report, many fruit growers and traders at Srinagar’s famous fruit market—(Fruit Mandi, Parimpora) expressed their concerns over the decision, saying the recent announcement of slashing the import duties on apples will bring down the rates of their apple produce.

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“We give our sweat and blood in ensuring a good apple produce throughout the year with the hope that we will receive good price for our hard work in return, but when an external competitor aided by our central government comes into the market how can we ensure our survival”, said fruit growers.

Bashir said that over the years many fruit growers and traders have stopped to continue the fruit business, saying that with the ongoing approach towards the industry, a handful growers will continue with the legacy.

Unstable Highway Corridors

Fruit traders say that they have been marred over by several issues, including dwindling prices, and increased input costs. 

Pertinent to mention that last year, farmers suffered huge losses after the unexpected delays of apple-laden trucks on the National Highway due to roadblocks. 

However, this year, the J&K administration has stated that the movement of fruit-laden trucks and the general public will be allowed without any hassle across the Srinagar-Jammu highway, saying that they have disbanded the “Up and Down” convey traffic management system.

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  • Jahangir Sofi is a special correspondent and staffer for Ground Report for Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from covering politics, conflicts, and society, he covers the environment, health, and gender. Before joining Ground Report in 2023, he wrote for The Wire, Article 14, Newslaundry, Mint Lounge, and other media organizations. He can be reached on twitter @JahangirSofi4.

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