The Kashmiri apple industry is in danger of collapsing unless the government intervenes.
New Delhi: Fruit growers in Kashmir valley believe that spurious pesticides, which are threatening their harvests, are being openly sold in the markets.
Although the local government acknowledges that it is a source of concern, it has emphasized that its role is limited to inspecting and licensing the shopkeepers / dealers, as the private individuals manage the import of such pesticides.
According to Aadil Ahmad, a distributor for various pesticides in Pulwama district, pesticides are imported from firms headquartered outside the state. “Unfortunately, officials blame us for all of the counterfeits and do little to penalize the manufacturers,” he contends.
Apple sector in danger of collapse if government fails to intervene
Kashmir’s apple growing segment is in danger of collapse, if the government fails to intervene. “This crucial sector, which has been the backbone of the state’s economy, would disappear forever if the government does not take significant steps,” warns Ali Mohammad, a fruit grower.
He claims that the counterfeit pesticides are mostly responsible for harming the Kashmiri apple harvest.
Mohammed added that the horticulture department had failed to deal with the problem, and that, despite assurances given to farmers, fake insecticides and pesticides were being ‘smuggled’ in to Kashmir.
‘Powerful mafia behind the consistent supply of poor-quality pesticides’
“Regarding the usage of pesticides in our orchards, we are adhering to all state government directives. Despite this, our crop yields are dwindling by the day,” Rouf Rafiq, a sexagenarian farmer, says.
He adds: “We feel that the pesticides’ trade has turned into a money-making business for a powerful mafia which is close to the Secretariat here. These people are involved in the consistent supply of poor-quality pesticides and its sale to orchard owners.”
To safeguard the fame of Kashmiri apple and the sector itself, the fruit growers have urged the government to take prompt action so as to halt the supply and sale of ‘fake-branded’ pesticides in the market.
Dirty tricks employed by pesticide manufacturers
“Most of the farmers are uneducated, and inexpensive pesticides readily entice them,” says Shabir Ahmad, a pesticide trader.
“Moreover, some firms employ fraudulent techniques to deceive naive farmers, such as changing the spelling of trade names to look like well-known brands and big companies,” he says.
‘Apple growers need bumper crop to pay off debts’
According to a senior bank official, who wished to speak on the condition of anonymity, Kashmiri apple growers in certain areas of the valley are in such a bad shape that only a bumper and high-quality crop for at least coming few years will help them pay off their debt.
“Almost everyone has borrowed money. Some orchardists have used Kisan Credit Card loans, while others have used their current accounts,” he outlined.
‘Horticulture department seized quintals of substandard pesticides’
Speaking about the problem, Aijaz Ahmad, Director General, Horticulture, states that his department was unable to perform market checks last year owing to the Covid- 19 lockdown.
“This year, our field staff has been very vigilant and around nine quintals of counterfeit pesticides were seized in Kulgam district alone,” he said in a chat with a local news outlet.
‘Horticulture department missing an enforcement wing’
“Despite the fact that pesticide inspection is not within our purview, we have been collaborating with cultivators. I have repeatedly urged that our department be given an enforcement wing, so that we can function more efficiently,” he laments.
Approximately half of Kashmir’s population, or around eight lakh households, are reliant on horticulture, with Kashmiri apple being the most significant crop.