Srinagar, Jul 06: Apple industry in Kashmir which has been suffering losses for the last many years is again caught in the throes of crisis since the government ordered the reduction of import duty on Washington apples.
The apple growers across Kashmir said that the industry which is considered the backbone of J&K’s economy has already been hit since 2019 in one or the other way and if hit again, it will “collapse”.
“We felt a sense of comfort after the government recently barred the import of apples for less than Rs 50 per kg, but the 20 percent reduction in import duty of Washington apples would again harm our business,” they said.
The growers expressed serious concern and displeasure over the government’s decision to slash import duty on Washington apples from 70 percent to 50 percent.
The fruit growers and dealers are worried that the 20 percent reduction in import duty will significantly increase the import of Washington apples in Indian markets and shrink the space for domestic produce of apples.
They said 22 lakh metric tons, exclusively of apple crop, is produced in the valley and about 70 percent of households in Jammu & Kashmir directly or indirectly depend on this sector.
“The 70 percent import duty has pushed it into a different league where it did not compete with the premium of Indian apples. However, with the reduction in import duty, it will cost roughly and will therefore severely hit the domestic apple in Indian markets,” they added.
The fruit growers and dealers said they would be pushed to starvation if the government will not call back its recent decision.
Chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer said that the “untimely strong hailstorm, gusty winds and heavy rains in the month of June 2023 have severely hit the horticulture industry of J&K and caused enough damages in the fruit orchards.”
Those who have constantly suffered heavy losses for the past several years due to one or the other reason are now extremely anxious with the apprehension of additional losses, he said.
“Now, the government decision of slashing down import duty on Washington apples from 70% to 50% has added to the miseries of the valley-based fruit growers,” Bashir said. “I, on behalf of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union have requested PM Modi to roll back the decision so that the fruit growers who have suffered heavy losses for the last several years will heave a sigh of relief.”
The apple industry, according to growers, suffered huge losses in the last few years due to the import of apples from Iran and other countries without any tax.
However, in May this year, the Central government amended its import policy for apples by introducing Minimum Important Price (MIP) and banning the import of apples costing below Rs 50 per kg.
Kashmir on average produces over 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple every year, a figure that in some years touches 25 lakh metric tonnes. The 2017 economic survey in J&K said that half of Kashmir’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on the apple industry and over 3.5 lakh hectares are under apple cultivation.kno