The interview seeks answers from the Horticulture Department concerning the problems faced by the valley’s fruit growers.
Srinagar (J&K) —
After a comprehensive coverage of the Horticulture sector in the form of in-depth stories by Digpu News, there were many questions that remained unanswered.
Stories that talked about Kashmiri apple farmers concern about the price drop, as well as spurious pesticides affecting the quality of apple produce provided an insight into the problems confronting the fruit growers.
However, there were certain problems that required answers from the Horticulture officials. And, who else could be in a better position than Aijaz Ahmad Bhat, the Director-General of Horticulture Kashmir, to take the questions and answer them.
The menace of spurious pesticides
The Director-General, while replying to a question about spurious pesticides being sold openly in the market, said that pesticide dealers are themselves orchardists as well.
“When we receive the complaints, we do take action. This year I got complaints from Sopore and Kulgam districts and I personally went there. It was the first day of Ramadan when I went to Sopore and seized 900kg of pesticides. Later, I got it tested and even sprayed the same in one of my orchards. What I mean is that the Department is taking such complaints seriously,” Mr Aijaz Bhat said.
He added that the department’s field staff remains on toes to take action against the dealers who indulge in such practices.
The official, however, stated that the department faces a dearth of laboratories. “Government has approved two laboratories – one in southern Kashmir and another in northern Kashmir. New laboratories for soil testing are also coming up soon,” the Director-General informed.
‘Pesticide dealers are culprits in case of fake pesticide brands’
Responding to a question as to why the Horticulture department penalizes pesticide dealers and not the manufacturers, Mr Aijaz said that dealers are registered with the department and they know which product is fake (clone) and which is authentic.
He noted, “It is not that a company will make a product for degrading itself (in the market). Instead, the dealers do have a role to bring such spurious pesticides in the market and sell them to naïve growers.”
‘We need to work on marketing of apple produce’
When asked about the drop in prices for high-density apple produce, he said the growers are getting good prices when compared to traditional apple produce. In the same breath, the official conceded the fact that the government needs to work on the marketing of the apple products, for which the department has already been taking some measures.
The question of crop insurance
“No company has come forward for the apple crop insurance, even when there are companies who provide crop insurance services. The biggest hurdle is the insurance premium, which is quite high in the case of fruits like apples. We are still looking at the available options and we’ll surely consider making such services available for the growers,” the Horticulture official said when asked about the provision of crop insurance.
Subsidies over apple grading machines
While reacting to the question of subsidies over new equipment like apple grading machines, the Director-General, Aijaz Bhat said that those growers who have acquired the machines need to approach the department for benefiting from the subsidies.
“We cannot take the subsidies to their homes. Instead, they need to approach the department and they’ll get to know the provision of subsidies,” the official said, adding, “We have been providing subsidies to big cold store owners, so why can’t we subsidize the grading machines which cost few lakh rupees. It is up to people, who need to come forward in this case.”