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Kashmiri Apple Growers Stare at Penury As Iranian Apple Takes Over Markets
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Kashmiri Apple Growers Stare at Penury As Iranian Apple Takes Over Markets

Iranian apple — unlike previous years when it was being brought via Afghanistan and Pakistan — now after the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan is being brought via sea routes, illegally, at the ‘cost of trash’.

SHOPIAN — Over 1.4 crore apple boxes are unsold in Kashmir after the “illegal import” of Iranian apple into Indian markets thus bringing down the rates of quality Kashmir apple.

Iranian apple — unlike previous years when it was being brought via Afghanistan and Pakistan — now after the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan is being brought via sea routes that too at the “cost of trash”.

Apple traders in Kashmir said that though there is no comparison of Iranian apple with Kashmiri ‘delicious’ and ‘kulu delicious’ but on the other hand when it is being sold at cheaper prices in Indian markets, it subsequently has brought down the rates of Kashmiri apple.

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Izhan Javid, Chief Executive Officer of multiple fruit related companies based in Kashmir said that Iran is producing around 17 lakh metric tonnes of apple and every country in the world has rejected its import because of its quality issues, containing novel fungal diseases and the United States sanctions. “Now all of their produce is being brought to India and why will it not affect rates of  Kashmiri apple when there is no demand for such a huge quantity of apple,” he said, adding that it was not an issue for Kashmir traders and growers if cess and duties are imposed on its import.

Kashmir this year produced around 23 lakh metric tonnes of apple among which record, over two lakh metric tonnes, were stored in cold storages.

Basheer Ahmad Basheer, President fruit and vegetables Mandi Srinagar said that the rates of Kashmiri apples have come down by 40 percent, compared to rates till mid-November 2021. “We want a complete ban on illegal import of Iranian or equivalent cess and duties should be imposed on its import like it is being imposed on export of our apple to other countries,” he said.

Basheer said that his association has written to the prime minister of India, to the Union agriculture minister and to lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir but no action was initiated by any of the offices.

According to an economic survey 2017 over 34 lakh Kashmir population, comprising 07 lakh families are directly dependent on the horticulture sector, primarily apple.

The official data reveals two lakh metric tonnes of apples are stored in cold chains based at Lassipora Pulwama, Aglar Shopian and parts of north Kashmir. Besides the stored apple hundreds of non-stored apple boxes are yet to be sold in the market. When the rates according to Basheer Ahmad Basheer are down by 40 per cent, it will bring losses over five billion rupees to Kashmir apple industry.

Muhammad Ashraf Wani, a prominent trader and grower of Shopian district who also was former president of mega fruit Mandi Aglar Shopian told Mountain Ink that they came to know about some novel fungal diseases in some consignments of Iranian apple. There is an apprehension that it may spread here as well.

Wani said that there are only 40 diseases found in Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand and at the same time Iran’s apple has over 350 diseases. He said that because of this reason most countries in the world rejected its import into their countries.

Javid said that Kashmiri traders are also importing apples but no country is allowing Kashmir produce without proper custom and cess charges but on the other hand India is not imposing it on import of Iranian apple. “Once we export the apple to other countries half of the rates are being spent on expenses like cess and customs and duties,” he said.

Traders based at Lasipora Pulwama and Aglar Shopian said that they have taken fat loans from banks and financial institutions to buy fruit from people on higher rates like Rs 900 to 1100 per 17 kilogram box from growers and same fruit is now being sold at Rs 800 to 900 in different markets in India that too after around a hundred rupees are being spent on transportation. “Year 2021 was the only year when traders who had stored apples in cold storages were able to pay part of debits. If Iranian apples continue to be imported to India, this year would be devastating for the Kashmir apple industry,” Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat, a trader from Kulgam said.



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