Orchard owners have asked the Centre to implement the Kashmir formula in Himachal as well to cushion cultivators from a price shock. New Delhi, through the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), buys apples from Kashmiri farmers at Rs 60, Rs 44 and Rs 24 per kg, depending on output quality.
Himachal’s apple growers want that benefit extended to them as well.
Prices have fallen to Rs 1,000- Rs 1,200 per box. Apple boxes weighing 22-35 kg are being sold for Rs 500 to Rs 1,200 in local markets, whereas consumers in cities are paying more.
Due to poor road infrastructure and non-availability of cold chains, growers are forced to sell apples to commission agents at a lower price, and the agents then sell the produce to big companies.
Apple growers allege that these big companies make profits by selling these apples at a higher price to consumers.
Cultivators also want the government to curb imports from Iran and other countries via Afghanistan under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).
“This year, apple prices have crashed drastically and are at a 10 -year low. We have brought it to the notice of the Himachal Pradesh government,” said Rajeev Chauhan, chairman of Himalayan Apple Growers’ Society.
This year, Himachal Pradesh has produced 30-35 million kg of apples.
Growers have already staged demonstrations and agitations in the state to draw the attention of the government on the falling price issue. A mega demonstration has been planned for September 26.
This year Iran, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan had bumper crops. Last year, Himachal saw a low yield; so, Iranian apples became attractive for both wholesalers and retailers as the varieties are priced low.
Chauhan said that these apples are flooding the market, forcing the local growers to sell apples much below the cost of production to commission agents.
“One of the biggest problems faced by the growers is non-availability of cold chains in the state. There is a problem with the storage of apples,” Chauhan added.