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Why Homegrown Apples could disappear in Kashmir in coming years

Why Homegrown Apples could disappear in Kashmir

Ground Report | New Delhi: Apples could disappear in Kashmir; Home-grown apples in India will soon become a rarity. Farmers have lost nearly half of their crops this year, and much of India’s orchards are expected to be destroyed soon. About 80% of India’s apples are grown in Kashmir. During the first snowfalls of this year, farmers in the region lost almost half of their production. Research has shown that climate change could make apple production in Kashmir unsustainable for years to come.

Apples could disappear in Kashmir

A large number of fruit trees in Kashmir, where nearly 80 percent of India’s apples are grown, were affected by off-season snowfall in October this year. Snowfall severely damaged orchards in Shopian and Kulgam districts in south Kashmir, where 50 percent of the fruit has yet to be harvested.

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Farmers lose their crops for the third year in a row due to early and heavy snowfalls in the Kashmir Valley. “In light of the changing climate, apple picking is not sustainable,” Dr. Irfan Rashid, Coordinator, Department of GeoInformatics, Kashmir University said.

“Usually in Kashmir, it snows after December 15, but in the last two decades, we have seen early snowfalls. Many apple varieties are harvested in November. Over the past five years, we have had three occasional snowfalls, and in the future, the situation may worsen.”

He added: “Climate models predict a very bleak scenario for erratic weather. In the Himalayas, including this region, there will be more frequent extreme events as we progress through the century. It is normal that Kashmir will witness extreme weather events.”

The apple industry, which sells its products in India and abroad, contributes Rs 5,000 crore to the local economy annually. As the climate crisis worsens, the gardens in the Kashmir Valley will become unsustainable over the next few years, researchers warn.

According to the Kashmir Horticulture Department, farmers suffered damage of Rs 500 crores in 2018 and Rs 2,250 crores in 2019, when Kashmir had the heaviest snowfall in 60 years.

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“If we look at Met History, we experienced very heavy snowfall in the first week of November 2018 and 2019. We got snowfall in the month of October, which is very early. There are many varieties of apples that are harvested in November, so it is obvious that when we have erratic snowfalls, the harvest will suffer as well as damage the trees. In 2018, we conducted a study that showed that damage was 4-50 percent, with some gardens up to 50 percent damaged. On average, about 35 percent of our crop was damaged, ” he added.

Damage due to snow

Another farmer, Aamir Hussein, said 10 of his 70 trees were cracked in the snow, and 15 more had lost or damaged branches. “I was devastated by the sight of broken branches and fallen apples. The snow was falling heavily. I stood and watched helplessly, ”Hussein said.

Research has shown that this can be a profitable solution despite the initial cost of replacing existing varieties. Farmers are hesitant to take on these costs, however, and Rashid said it could lead to the loss of local apple varieties. (Apples could disappear in Kashmir)

Apple employees 70 percent of the Kashmiri population. Those who are followed by apple orchards do not go to work anywhere else. They work in their field, besides this, people from other countries come and work here.

In the state, 95 to 98 percent of marginalized farmers own land from three to 10 kanals and one or two percent are farmers who have one or two kanals of land.

Bashir Ahmed said small and marginal farmers find it more difficult to benefit from government schemes, while large farmers who have large farms benefit more from government schemes. Referring to 2019, he said that due to the natural disaster in November 2019, the apple harvest was severely affected, but the farmers were given Rs 1,000-500 in compensation.

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