A total of 7,267 metric tons of apples were imported from Iran and Afghanistan last month. The impact of this influx has raised concerns among fruit growers and dealers in the valley, who claim that the demand for Kashmiri apples has dropped by over 40 percent. The figures reveal that from October 10 to November 15, a total of 29 metric tonnes of apples were exported from Iran to Azadpur Mandi in New Delhi. In parallel, Kashmir shipped 89,000 metric tons of apples, while Afghanistan contributed 7,238 metric tons to the Azadpur fruit mandi during the same period. However, according to officials, the fruit industry in the valley has not suffered any adverse impact due to the influx of Iranian and Afghan apples. It is pertinent to note that India has a free trade policy with Afghanistan. Despite being subject to export taxes, Iran managed to export only 29 tonnes of apples in the same time period. The amount of apples shipped from the Kashmir valley during this period significantly exceeded the total imports from Afghanistan and Iran. In fact, the positive market demand for Kashmir apples continued this year; This shows that growers are getting better rates in various markets across India. But the sentiment among apple growers and sellers paints a different picture. Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, in a letter to the Prime Minister, expressed concern that there will be significant losses due to the influx of Iranian apples. The letter points out a reduction in the rates of Grade ‘A’ Kashmir apples by Rs 600 per box. Two weeks ago a box of Kashmir apples was selling for Rs. 1000-1300 in various fruit markets across India; now it fetches just Rs. 800 per box, according to growers. In its claim, the union further emphasized the ‘regrettable impact’ that the heavy influx of Iranian apples is having not only on small and marginal growers in Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand, but also on state finances. The union has made an impassioned appeal to the Prime Minister to consider a ban on the arrival of Iranian apples in Indian markets or alternatively, the imposition of 100 per cent excise duty. However, it is necessary to critically examine whether banning imports solely out of concern for possible harm is a viable solution. Local growers need to introspect and analyze how imported apples reach markets at more affordable prices, opening avenues for strategic planning and a more competitive approach. Although the concerns of fruit growers in the valley are noteworthy, the solution lies not only in restricting imports but also in developing strategies that will increase the competitiveness of locally produced apples. This may include adopting innovative farming practices, improving post-harvest management, and exploring ways to improve the overall quality and marketability of Kashmir apples. Therefore, a nuanced approach is required to overcome the challenges posed by the influx of Iranian apples. Banning apples from Iran or Afghanistan or imposing very heavy import taxes is not a solution.
news source (www.thekashmirmonitor.net)