Apple Production Enriches Kashmir’s Economy

Kashmir Apple Production Up

Kashmir, which is known as paradise on earth to those in the know, is locally famous for its horticulture production. Kashmiri horticulture has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and in 2014 about 3,378 hectares of additional land has been converted into apple orchards.

According to official records, there were 140,156 hectares of apple crops in 2012-13, which increased to 143,534 hectares in 2013-14. This year, growers were focused on keeping their orchards safe from all types of pests by spraying various pesticides and at the end of the year expect a good return.

Sheikh Ashaq Ahmad, President of The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said their hard work would be made more valuable by paving the way to exporting Kashmir apples to the international market. “If we want to achieve maximum revenue out of our apple production then we have to export a big portion of it to other parts of the world,” Sheikh Ashaq Ahmad said.

An official report reveals that in the year 2012-13 to 2013-14, the apple production increased fivefold, from 306,609 metric tons. The total production in 2013-14 was recorded at 1,633,349 tons. Most of this production is being consumed in Indian markets and a small portion of it is being exported to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

“Not that much of the apple production is being exported as much it should have been. Need of the hour is, to make people aware, particularly those who are associated with the apple trade,” Sheikh Ashaq said.

As only a small portion of the Kashmiri apple crop is being exported, in the same way not enough Kashmiris are directly involved in exporting this fresh fruit.

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, President of the New Kashmir Fruit Association, in Parimpora Srinagar said “There are various factors like risk involved, such as market fluctuations and lower shelf life, fewer export destinations and lack of basic facilities which stop young entrepreneurs in Kashmir actively taking part in exporting apples.”

International Market For Kashmiri Apples

Kashmiri apples are famous for being juicy, and are thought to have a huge potential for export. What they lack is international marketing. “If our apples are to be exported, air transport to the international destinations has to be restored. For exporting it is important to have direct access to international markets through air and land” Sheikh Ashaq said.

He added “If air transport would be restored we can pack our product and send it directly to the international market (initially it may be Dubai) and get a very high revenue out of it compared to what we get from the domestic market.”

There are natural routes in Kashmir, and apples can be exported to the Middle East and to the Gulf countries. There are also land routes such as the Mughal road, which leads to the Peshawar Mandi in Pakistan through Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir and the Jhelum valley road through which one can reach to Rawalpindi in one day.

“Since 2008 Cross-LoC trade has been going on through Uri-Muzzafarabad (places near the Indo-Pak border), but the big drawback for the Cross-LoC trade is the lack of communication between the two parties, which proved to be the failure of fresh fruit trade through this route. Although, we have a high export quality apples in Kashmir which can be exported to the Middle East via this route” – Bashir Ahmad Bashir.

Expressing his views on the export to the international market Bashir Ahmad Bashir said “For exporting goods to international markets, it is important to have trader’s interaction between two different countries. For that, government has to step forward and smoothe the ways for it, by providing required facilities like storage, transportation, licenses etc.”

Shortcomings And Steps To Improve International Standards

Kashmiri traders or farmers have much less resources to preserve their products for a long time. So because of financial barriers a farmer or a trader sells his product immediately in local markets at whatever price he can get. “The need of the hour is to take measures, so that a grower and a trader gets motivated to export a major portion of his apples. In that case the Kashmir Chamber has to play a role by setting targets of achieving export destinations” said Sheikh Ashaq.

Kashmir lacks basic facilities such as storage houses, road and air connectivity etc. “It is very important to have warehouse facilities and storage houses in Kashmir. So that we can preserve our fruit for some time till we export it to the destination” says Sheikh Ashaq.

When it comes to export, international standards have to be maintained and for that, awareness among the masses, particularly among the people associated with the trade, needs to be raised. “To make our product of international standards, we need to have quality pesticides and fertilizers. We need to invest our resources in research to improve the quality of apple produce, we need improve our root stocks and need new quality stocks of apples” Bashir Ahmad said.

Export Effects On State Economy

Kashmir is an agriculture state and approximately seventy present of the population is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. In particular, horticulture has proven to be the back bone of the state’s economy. It has provided employment to thousands of unemployed youth.

Kashmiri apples are juicy and tasty, and therefore have the potential to be introduced into international markets, which in turn can prove to be a great support to Kashmir’s economy.

Speaking to a local newspaper about agriculture in Kashmir’s economy, A. H. Lone, the deputy Director of Kashmir Horticulture said, “It contributes more than 4000 crore towards the state economy and is considered to be the backbone of our economy”

Ahmad Mukhtiyar is a photojournalist based in New Delhi, India, who tells important stories through the lens of his camera.