Panic among Kashmir apple orchards due to bad weather forecast, high cost due to out-migration of workers

Last year, apple growers in the valley suffered huge losses due to the invasive spread of scab, which left black spots on the skin of the fruit, degrading its quality.

According to farmers, the disease has attacked around 80 percent of fruit in the apple-rich Shopian district, with growers suffering heavy losses. They blamed the relentless sale of fake pesticides in the region amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

“The past few years have been rather unlucky for the apple industry. However, this year we expected quality produce, but the weather forecast made us restless,” said Mushtaq Ahamd, President of Fruit Growers and Zamindar Association.

The labor shortage caused by the exodus of migrant workers following recent targeted killings in the region has also made things difficult for apple growers.

According to the orchards, the return journey of thousands of non-native workers not only hampered the harvesting process, but also led to a significant increase in labor costs.

“Due to the labor shortage, there was more or less a crisis situation,” said Ashiq Hussian, an apple merchant.

Hussain said the daily labor wage has increased from Rs 800 to Rs 900, from Rs 450 to Rs 500.

Dale D. Schrum