By India Today Business Desk: The apple industry in India is bracing for a severe blow this year as heavy rains and flash floods wreak havoc in the main producing Himalayan region, reported news agency Reuters.
Officials and farmer unions report that the catastrophe has wiped out approximately $122 million worth of fruit, leading to nearly halving the country’s apple production.
The mountainous territories of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, known for their lush apple orchards, contribute to nearly all of India’s apple production, with a significant majority being consumed domestically.
Only a meager 2 per cent of the country’s apples find their way to export markets, primarily to Bangladesh and Nepal.
The destructive impact of the heavy rains extends beyond the farms, as vital infrastructure, roads, and power lines worth $550 million in Himachal Pradesh have been damaged or destroyed.
At the same time, the torrential weather has taken a toll on India’s critical rice crop, leading to an export ban in recent weeks.
In addition to the floods, an outbreak of fungus has further compounded the crisis, leaving fruits, including apples, rotting on the farms.
Farmer unions have raised concerns about the alarming situation, noting that approximately 10 per cent of Himachal’s apple orchards have been swept away, dealing a significant blow to the industry.
The recovery process is expected to be long and arduous, as it takes around 15 years for apple trees to bear fruit again.
The Apple Growers Association of India and Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers predict that output in Kashmir, the largest apple-growing region in the country, will plummet by 50 per cent compared to the previous year’s production of 1.87 million metric tons.
The association’s president, Ravinder Chauhan, attributes the widespread damage to a combination of factors, including inadequate snowfall during the winter and the subsequent heavy rains.
Weather records reveal that Kashmir has received a staggering 50 per cent more rainfall than average during the current monsoon season, which began on June 1.
Similarly, Himachal Pradesh, the second-largest apple producer, has experienced a rainfall surplus of 79 per cent, as per data from the weather department.
The horticulture department in Kashmir has estimated the overall damage to fruit crops at a staggering value of up to $109.78 million.
Meanwhile, Himachal state anticipates a 40 per cent decline in output compared to last year’s 640,000 metric tons, as reported by a state official.