J&K floods wash away Rs1,000cr of apple crop: Assocham

The devastating floods in Kashmir that submerged almost the entire state, has damaged apple crop worth over Rs1,000 crore and created a scarcity of Kashmiri saffron in the market.

Prices of both apples and saffron are set to soar during the coming festival season, according to an Assocham study.

The floods have already caused a scarcity of Kashmiri apples and saffron in the market, triggering speculation of their prices heading north

"Floods have washed out Kashmir apple's crop worth Rs1,000 crore leaving a devastating impact on growers and the collateral damage for the consumers in rest of the country, who should be prepared to pay high prices in the coming festival and rest of the winter season,'' an Assocham report said after an assessment of the crop loss.

The worst-hit districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Sopore are the largest producers of apple and extensive damage has been reported there, the report said.

"Horticultural production of the state contributes about 50 per cent of the Rs2,000 crore agricultural production of the state involving 3 million people. Apple production accounts for 86 per cent by value of the state's horticultural output," it added.

"Apple is the mainstay of Kashmir's economy with a turnover of Rs1,200 crore a year and its production in the state has reached about 1.6 million metric tonnes annually," the Assocham report pointed out.

The sector also employs nearly 30,00,000 people directly and indirectly, it said, adding apple accounts for a lion's share of total fruits produced and contributes about 10 per cent to state domestic product (SDP).

"Kashmir apples, known for their taste and juice, have already lost a huge market share to those grown in other north Indian states due to the low prices of the latter variety," D S Rawat, secretary general of Assocham, said.

"Kashmir apples are favourite not only in the domestic market but also abroad. With the supply line closed from Kashmir, the price of apple has already started shooting up and the ensuing Navratra season will see further jump by 40-45 per cent. As the supply from rest of the country will not be able to make up for the loss, dependence on imports will also increase," said Rawat.

Dealers in Delhi's wholesale market project more than 60 per cent fall in the quantity of apples from Kashmir in the entire season, it said.

"The devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir have damaged the best varieties of Kashmiri apples that were to hit markets by September-end," Rawat said.

Most families in Sopore in north Kashmir and Shopian in the south are involved in the cultivation of the fruit that flourishes in the hilly environment. Orchards in Kashmir Valley once known as the fruit bowl of India are full of fragrant apples but growers fear the disastrous year of business, the Assocham report said.

The horticulture industry in Kashmir also generates Rs500-600 crore for the state exchequer annually, the report added.

Kashmiri apple varieties like the red, glistening 'firdous' and 'amri' have over the years become hugely popular world over, it said, adding India is the world's 11th largest apple producer.

Though apple is the major fruit grown in Kashmir, especially in Sopore in north and Shopian in the south, other fruits like cherry, peach, apricots and pears are also grown on a large scale, it said.

Kashmir's apple and pear varieties are considered best in the world. While the fruit production in the Valley is around 1.5 to 1.7 million metric tonnes annually, the growers say Kashmir has a capability to produce 2.5-3.0 million tonnes every year.