Erratic weather patterns that include unpredictable fluctuations in temperature, changes in precipitation levels and extreme weather events (heavy rainfall, etc.) are having a profound and damaging impact on Kashmir’s fruit industry.
Heavy rainfall has not only left a trail of devastation across the Kashmir Valley, but also caused havoc in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, leaving both fruit producers and traders in panic and economic distress.
Heavy rains and flash floods have reportedly wiped out about USD 122 million worth of apples, which is one of the main fruits sustaining Kashmir and India’s horticulture economy.
Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh produce nearly all of India’s apples, 98 percent of which is consumed at home. Only two percent of Indian grown apples are exported, that too to Bangladesh and Nepal.
Heavy rains have not only damaged apple orchards, but also destroyed roads, damaged power lines and infrastructure. Fruits are by and large left to rot after being infested with fungus caused by adverse weather conditions.
One report has quoted the Apple Growers Association of India and the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealers Association as saying that apple production is likely to drop 50 percent in 2023 from 1.87 million metric tons produced in 2022.
Apple Growers Association President Ravinder Chauhan was quoted as saying that poor snowfall and excessive rains have damaged fruit produce in farms, and informed further that the Kashmir Valley has experienced 50 percent more rain during this year’s monsoon season, when compared to the same period last year.
Neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, India’s second largest producer of apples (640,000 metric tons in 2022) hasn’t faired any better, recording a rainfall increase of 79 percent as per weather department data.
Over 70 percent of India’s apples come from Kashmir and it is but natural to assume that income generated from the sale of this fruit sustains the region’s larger fruit economy, including providing livelihood to labourers, traders and transporters. Today, most of them are said to be on an economic precipice, unsure of their survival.
Kashmir has experienced changing weather patterns since the beginning of 2023. The region faced severe heat waves in February and March. This has been followed by hail storms, rain, abnormal and unexpected chilly weather in May.
While the upper Kashmir areas are said to have experienced a fruit production drop of around 50 percent, the lower Kashmir areas have suffered a loss in the 20 to 30 percent range.
The situation has been further compounded by a central government decision to reduce the import duty on Washington Apples from 70 percent to 50 percent, leaving the Kashmir Valley’s apple cultivators and traders agitated.
Apple growers feel consumers would prefer to buy imported apples as opposed to the local variety, and therefore don’t see the government decision to reduce import duties as wise.
The fate of other fruits isn’t that well off either. Take for example plums. Hailstorms and heavy rains have damaged the crop to the extent that farmers are only able to deliver one fourth of the produce to the wholesale and retail markets.
The canning of cherries, another popular fruit of Kashmir, has also taken a hit because of the rains. In Shopian, where cherries are primarily grown, farmers are now refusing to grow or harvest it.
The J&K Fruit and Vegetable Processing and Integrated Cold Chain Association (JKPICCA) has endorsed the dismal picture painted by the Apple Growers Association of India and the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealers Association, saying that it has been a very bad year for fruit growers because of poor weather and industry-related costs.
Hailstorms and climate change are being cited as the main factors responsible for poor fruit industry returns. Orchard owners and other stakeholders feel that the government needs to go into firefighting mode to save the environment in Kashmir. They believe that Kashmir’s environmental destruction would have a telling overall impact on South Asia.
The Department of Horticulture in J&K, however, is said to be issuing alerts to farmers and orchard owners about advancing adverse weather, and is advising the latter on steps to counter and survive.

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