28 Sep 2020
Kashmir proudly known as “Paradise on Earth” is also home to temperate fruits like apple for which the state is very famous across the globe. The main factor which influences temperate fruit bearing trees is soil, climate and environmentwhich are highly favourable and unparalleled in the province of Kashmir. Apple (Malus pumila) is commercially the most important temperate fruit and is fourth among the most widely produced fruits in the world after banana, orange and grape.
Man has very little control over nature especially factors like the climatic conditions which influences the geographic distribution of various kinds and varieties of temperate fruits. But the way Kashmiri Apple Orchards are maintained and the hard work employed in the harvest, makes the fruit best around the world.
Beginning of the Journey
Land & Climate – Apple is grown only at higher elevation where the temperature drops down to a very low level which is highly required for the growth of such fruit bearing trees. In the Indian sub-continent, the Himalayan region especially the state of Kashmir which is noted for its monsoon is supposed to be the most favourable location for the growth of not only apples but also other temperate fruits.
Kashmir has a distinct identity of having an unbroken historical record for its temperate weather conditions from early days to present period. It is believed that things which are difficult to be got even in heaven like lofty houses, saffron, grapes, walnut, icy water and the apples are easily available here. The freely available fruits of the state form an important part of the diet of the people of Kashmir.
Growing of Apple. The most common areas in Kashmir which are known for its apple cultivation are Srinagar, Budgam,Pulwama, Anatnag, Baramullah and Kupwara. A proper layout is required for the apple orchard. The planting is done in the months of January and February and the planting material is usually got from the nurseries which are registered with the government. The climate is generally cold which gives the crop its favourable condition. The Kashmiri people grow the cultivation in their own household, and the whole family gets involved in its start.
Journey from Cultivation till Harvest
Harvesting Months. Harvest falls between August and November, depending on the apply variety, and during this time, a limited supply of labour means it’s often a race against the clock to get the mature apples hand-picked and loaded into large wooden crates in the appropriate timeframe. In this duration, one can see busy households in their Orchards. The harvesting needs to be quick execution as late packing will destroy the crop and will also give bad rates in market.
Plucking of Apples – Aug-Nov
Packing. The packing begins in carboard boxes/wooden crates and is done by keeping in mind the variety and size of the apples. Kashmir state alone produces 113 different variety of apples. Once packed, the crates are loaded onto trucks and transported to the receiving facility where they are cleaned, sorted, and packed for consumers. Between 6,000 and 10,000 crates are received daily, which equates to 5 to 6 million apples each day.
Packing of Apples in Pack/ Wooden Crates
Initiative by the Govt. In September 2020, to provide a helping hand to the apple growers, the government introduced the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), under which a sale counter was to be installed in all registered fruit markets around the Valley to facilitate better prices.
9. The govt wanted to lay focussed attention on providing every possible support to apple growers – right from their orchards to the market. This will also clear so many channels that a farmer used to follow to sell his apples. Govt regulated the rates, and farmer got the delivery at a very reasonable prices.
Use of Modern Equipments and Various Schemes for Farmers
Jammu and Kashmir Bank owned by the state government has come up with lot of financial aid for the apple growers of Kashmir. The financial support is given at various levels like in the pre-harvest stage for production cost, harvesting stage for picking/packing/ grading, post-harvest stage for marketing or for the entire production and marketing cycle.
Apple for Us. Apples can be stored for about 4-8 months after harvesting thus having a longer shelf life than any other fruit. The rate of the Kashmiri apple varies in each state costs about Rs 105/kg in Delhi, Rs110/kg in Mumbai and Rs 120/kg in Bangalore even though its production cost is just about Rs 35 – 40 /kg.
Beautiful Kashmiri Apple Typical Indian Market
Apple cultivation contributes to about 55% of the horticulture area of the state of Kashmir which includes 1,50,000 hectares. Kashmir is the leading producer of apple in India known as the apple basket being one of the major economies of Kashmir with a turnover of about Rs 2500 crores plus.
In spite of such favourable conditions, marketing is very hectic, expensive and laborious exercise. Kashmir in spite of militant activities and anti-Indian ideology propagated across the borders, the state has always shown exceptional interest in the business with the nation. The state has an unbeaten record of being the biggest producer and supplier of Apples after Independence. There is a sense of satisfaction amongst the farmers as far as the demand is concerned, and if this wind prevails, the time is not far when their will be more modernisation in supply and production.