Kullu, January 21
The production of apple, considered to be the economic backbone of 70 per cent orchardists of the Kullu valley, has been steadily declining for the past six years. Around 80 lakh to one crore boxes of apple are generally produced in the district, generating a business of about Rs 1,000 crore.
But since 2016, the production of apple in the district has been declining due to climatic changes. The graph of production started going downwards in 2011 but between 2016 and 2021, the output was less than 50 lakh boxes per year.
The Kullu valley is famous for various varieties of apple, but declining production has made the orchardists concerned. This year, the production of apple was 55 lakh boxes, against 48 lakh boxes in 2020, which is still below average. Production in the past six years was the highest in 2019 (75 lakh boxes).
This year, the orchardists received a double blow as the output was less and the growers did not get a fair price for their produce as well. Besides the initial season, 60 per cent of the apple boxes were sold for only Rs 500 to Rs 900 in the mandis of Kullu, along with the Azadpur Mandi in New Delhi and other markets of the country. Thus, the orchardists were forced to sell apple in local mandis.
Orchardists Ramesh Chand, Hans Raj and Kishori Lal rue that they did not get a fair price this year and many of them could not even recover the input cost. Due to the decreasing production and unfair prices, they are getting financially weaker year after year. This year, too, the apple crop was destroyed by hailstorm in many areas while the crop stained by hail did not fetch a good price in many areas.
Kullu Horticulture Department expert Uttam Prashar says that untimely snowfall, hailstorms and storms are damaging the crop during the flowering and setting season. To avoid this, the government is subsidising the installation of nets to protect the apple crop from hailstorm, he adds.
Uneven weather worries
Untimely snowfall, hailstorms and storms are damaging the crop during the flowering and setting season. To avoid this, the government is subsidising the installation of nets to protect the crop from hailstorms. — Uttam Prashar, Kullu Horticulture Department