The first-ever convention of apple farmers from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, was held in Srinagar on Thursday. A resolution adopted at the workshop says that while apple farmers earn about ₹ 4,300 crore in a year, the market value of the apples they sell in retail markets is about ₹ 14,400 crore. “The remaining 70% of the value, ie, a whooping ₹ 10,000 crore per year is shared by various stakeholders including corporate players, intermediaries and commission agents, the cold chain owners, transporters, the wholesale traders, retailers, credit institutions and given as tax to Governments, ”says the resolution.
“Apple is the lifeline of Kashmir. About 70% of the Valley’s population are dependent on apple cultivation. They have suffered huge losses in the last three seasons due to the atmosphere created in the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370. “MY TarigamiFormer MLA and organizer of the workshop
A main organizer of the workshop and former MLA MY Tarigami told The Hindu that as the harvesting of apples is about to begin in August, the farmers are unsure about the value for their efforts. “Apple is the lifeline of Kashmir. About 70% of the Valley’s population are dependent on apple cultivation. They have suffered huge losses in the last three seasons due to the atmosphere created in the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370. Through this workshop, our effort is to reach out to farmers in 20 districts in the three states of India who cultivate apples. We also passed a charter of demands of apple farmers, ”Mr. Tarigami said.
Call for storage infrastructure
The charter called for providing assistance and support for the creation of a network of producer cooperatives on the lines of dairy cooperatives. They wanted the Center and state governments to extend special assistance to producer cooperatives to create storage infrastructure including controlled atmosphere storages (CAS) and cold chain vehicles, and processing and marketing facilities. “Stop leasing out CAS in the public sector to corporate companies and entrust them to producer cooperatives of farmers. Provide annual estimates of cost of cultivation for apple and other horticultural crops just as this is done for other crops. Horticultural Census should be done every five years, ”the workshop demanded.
It also demanded a legally guaranteed procurement and minimum support price for apple. “Provide resources to producer cooperatives for undertaking procurement at MSP. Market intervention at MSP must be done to support farmers in the event of crop damages caused by diseases and natural calamities. Add a clause in the APMC Acts to ensure that private buyers including corporate buyers must pay at least at the rate of C2 + 50% price for apple, ”the charter said.
The farmers demanded government agencies such as HPMC and HIMFED to clear arrears to apple growers and pay to farmers on delivery of produce. “The government should also ensure that commission agents and private traders should clear the arrears to be paid to apple growers,” it added.
They alleged that corporate buyers have been using frivolous criteria to determine the quality of apple. “Perfectly healthy and good quality fruit is classified as low grade merely because of appearance. This also promotes unhealthy practices of improving appearances through the use of chemicals, ”the farmers claimed.
The workshop noted that around 24 lakh metric tons of apple is produced in India. In that, Kashmir contributes 77% of the production and 8% of GDP of Jammu and Kashmir is from apple.
“Around 30% of the production gets wasted or spoiled at different stages due to non availability of storage facilities with small and middle farmers. An average value fetched by the farmers in different categories is estimated as ₹ 45 for a kilo of A grade, ₹ 20 for B grade and ₹ 8 for C grade. On average, farmers get ₹ 24 per kilo and since 18 lakh MT is the marketable produce, then ₹ 4,300 crore is the income received by farmers. Against this, the consumer price of apple as per the grade varies from ₹ 30 to ₹ 300. If we consider ₹ 80 as the average commodity price at retail market, then around ₹ 14,400 crore is the value in the consumer market. The farmers, who have to bear the cost of production including the labor charges, get below 30% of this value chain, ”the resolution adopted at the workshop said.
It added that the CAS facility being rented out to Agri-fresh headed by the Adani group is another example of how the public money is diverted to assist the corporate houses for naked profiteering.