The first November snowfall in Kashmir since 2009 on Saturday has caused widespread damage to the mainstay of the Valley economy – horticulture.
All Valley Fruit Growers Association chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat said almost 20% of the apple crop may have been damaged in South Kashmir alone and put the estimated loss at Rs 1,000 crore.
State horticulture director Manzoor Qadri said the department was still assessing the damages. Fruit growers had suffered “heavy damages”, he added.
The snowfall plunged Kashmir into darkness, forced closure of the lifeline Srinagar-Jammu national highway and disrupted air traffic besides damaging orchards while the apple harvest was yet to be completed.
An estimated 2.5 million out of Kashmir’s seven million people are believed to be directly or indirectly dependent on horticulture, which has an annual turnover of Rs 5,000 to 6,000 crore.
Orchardist Ghulam Nabi Dar, 65, called the snowfall “a catastrophe” and said he had lost over 60 trees at Below in South Kashmir’s Pulwama. “…my earning will come down to mere 20 to 30%. I do not know how my family will survive as the apple orchard is my only livelihood. A tree takes two decades to mature and the snowfall has ruined our hard work of years.’’
Dar’s neighbour, Khurshid Ahmad, said he lost at least 25 apple trees, which would have fetched him around ~1 lakh.
“I have a loan of Rs 2 lakh and I was planning to repay it within the next two-three years. I do not know what I will do now.’’
In North Kashmir’s Kupwara, fruit grower Farooq Ahmad Malik said he lost 250 boxes of apples.
“I had delayed harvest due to Diwali as it fetches good rates during the festival season. Unfortunately, I lost all the harvest, which is now under snow.”
Bhat said almost 20% of the apple crop was yet to be plucked when it began snowing in South Kashmir.
“We have lost hundreds of apple-bearing trees,’’ he said. Bhat sought compensation for the orchardists, who have suffered heavy losses. He added their calls for crop cover over the last two decades had gone unheard.
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Ashiq Hussain said the fruit growers would have not been hit so hard had apple orchards been covered under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna.
Qadri said some orchards in Anantnag and Shopian had lost 60 to 70% fruit-bearing capacity.