Untimely Snowfall Destroys Apple Orchards In Kashmir

“It was again that time of the year when we were all set to harvest and pick our long-awaited fruitful outcome from apple produce, but all our dreams are in vain now, the covid pandemic and removal of the article 370 has already caused huge losses for us farmers”, says Irshad, a resident of Memander, a village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, whose crops have been damaged due to heavy rainfall.

Farmers across Shopian hamlet have dreaded the heavy rains and snowfall in parts of the valley. As the snowfall arrived on Saturday, dozens of villages and towns witnessed scenes of mourning and wailing with rain damaging the orchards.

Raising concerns among the apple growers in the suburb areas specifically from the apple sector, who were are all set for their harvesting season.

Keller, Saloo, Heerpora, Imam Sahib, Shallatoo, and Imam Sahib were other adjoining villages along with the apple town which suffered damages. Similar reports have stemmed from the Pulwama district.

“Early snowfall is proving devastating for the people of Shopian. It is heart-wrenching to see a year’s hard works being washed away,” HabeelIqbal a resident of Shopian, said.

“The director horticulture@AjazAhmadKas has estimated the loss due to today’s snowfall to be 10%, this is misleading and incorrect. The actual loss will be much higher. We understand the financial constraints of the exchequer but the calculation of loss must be genuine”, he added.

Earlier this week, the weather forecast department had issued an advisory warning to the farmers with regards to the harsh climatic conditions. The weatherman Sonam lotus had predicted heavy rainfall and snowfall in the valley from October 23-25.

Since Friday night, heavy rainfall and snowfall have been witnessed in the hilly reaches.

As per official data, Kashmir exports approximately 20 lakh metric tons of apples every year, the horticulture is worth around Rs 8,000 to 9,000 core, along with the employment it generates. However, removal of Article 370 and the pandemic has incurred huge losses to those in the farm sector for two years. The Valley produces 75% of the total production but growers are in dilemma and anticipate in fear for their hard work go in vain.

Farooq Ahmad, an apple orchardist from Vehel village of Shopian, said: “Ever since the advisory was issued, we haven’t been able to sleep, in fear of the incessant snowfall and our patience has turned into a nightmare.”

This year’s onset of winters in the valley has been unexpected and makes the agriculturists worrisome as it indicates climate change and global warming a reality, implicating the present situation. The temperatures have dipped and parts of hill stations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg have reported the season’s first snowfall

Most parts of villages in south Kashmir have reported the branches of trees were broken and apples have fallen to the ground.

In a statement Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Farooq Ahmad Khan has directed the Director General Horticulture to personally look into and supervise the evaluation process with loss to orchards and fruits in South Kashmir and deploy staff to areas to assess the damages.

He further stated that the principal secretary of horticulture department has been guided to monitor the exercise on a regular basis. Earlier, the department had issued an advisory and asked the apple and fruit growers to speed up the harvesting of apples after the weatherman predicted heavy snowfall and rainfall.

Its reported rains added heavy landslides and shooting stones along with the Ramban and Banihal areas of Srinagar-Jammu highway. Likewise, the roads connecting Srinagar to Pir Panjal Valley along the Mughal Road, Ladakh, and Zojila Pass have been suspended for vehicular movement.

Shopian’s Killora village has similar story to narrate.

Rameez Mushtaqa, a resident of Killora, who owns 25 Kamal’s of orchards, has almost 1,500 empty boxes of apples yet to be filled, which amounts to around Rs 12 lakh.

The shortage of laborers had added to the misery, Mushtaq complained.

“I am at a huge loss, the sound of the branches breaking still echoes in my ears, I can’t tell you what I am going through. It’s devastating and infuriating as all we can do is pray to the Almighty to ease and help us overcome these difficult times,” he added.

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