Srinagar, Oct 16: A severe hailstorm wreaked havoc in various parts of the valley on Sunday evening, causing significant damage to orchards.
Local residents from Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Bandipora, and other districts informed the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that the hailstorm severely affected the fruit crops upon which thousands of families in these regions depend.
They have demanded swift action and urged the government to assess the damage and compensate the affected growers.
Growers said they faced extensive damage over the past three consecutive years due to untimely snowfall, hailstorms, and other climatic events. They expressed frustration, saying that despite suffering losses worth lakhs of rupees annually, they receive meagre compensation.
Orchardists said there is an urgent need for a comprehensive crop insurance scheme so that if growers face any damage, they could receive at least 50 percent compensation.
Saleem Ahmad, a grower from Shopian, said that incessant rains during the flowering stage and prolonged dry spells in summer and autumn have led to scab disease, which has affected the size and colour of apples. He expressed concern over the quality of this year’s C-grade apples, lamenting the discontinuation of the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) by the Union government, which previously played a crucial role in procuring inferior-quality apples in the valley.
Bashir Ahmad Bashir, President of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Association and New Kashmir Fruit Association, stressed the need for a crop insurance scheme, especially after this year’s hailstorm hit areas with quality fruit during the harvesting season.
Despite repeated assurances from union ministers and high-ranking officers, the implementation of the crop insurance scheme has been delayed, leaving growers in distress, he said and urged the government to restart the MIS scheme to address the increased proportion of C-grade apples resulting from the untimely hailstorm.
Bashir said the efforts to seek assistance from J&K Bank have also proved futile. “We also requested J&K Bank to come up with some scheme in this regard, but nothing was done,” he said.
The affected growers have appealed to the authorities to support them and safeguard their livelihoods from the aftermath of the natural disaster.
Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union issues statement
Meanwhile, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, in a statement issued to KNO, has expressed deep concern over the immense losses suffered by fruit orchards in Shopian, Kulgam, Bandipora, and other districts due to a severe hailstorm on the evening of October 15, 2023.
According to the statement, the orchard owners have lost their entire year’s earnings due to the hailstorm, which has impacted not only the orchards but also the livelihoods of countless individuals associated with the industry. It said the fruit industry is the backbone of Kashmir’s economy, and any damage to this sector directly affects the overall economic stability of Jammu and Kashmir.
The union said it has long advocated for the inclusion of Kashmir’s Horticulture Sector under the Crop Insurance Scheme. Despite previous announcements by the government, the scheme has not been implemented in Kashmir, leaving the region’s growers vulnerable to the unpredictable forces of nature. The statement emphasized that 90% of the people in the Kashmir Valley are marginal growers, heavily reliant on their orchard incomes. Natural calamities like hailstorms pose immense challenges for these growers, who are already burdened by previous losses and debts.
In light of the recent calamity, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union urgently appealed to the Lt Governor’s administration to send concerned officers from Agriculture University SKAUST Shalimar and members of the Department of Horticulture Development Kashmir and Horticulture P&M to assess the damages caused by the hailstorm.
The union urged the government to promptly implement the crop insurance scheme, which would provide much-needed relief to growers in the face of such disasters. It also sought a comprehensive relief package to support fruit trees affected by the hailstorm, declared a natural calamity—(KNO)