Is Climate Change Already Affecting Kashmir’s Fruit Crop?

Is Climate Change Already Affecting Kashmir’s Fruit Crop?

Cherry, apples, plum and strawberries – all fruit crop in the region – have been under the weather, pushing traders and producers into panic.

After wrecking havoc in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, erratic rainfalls has not spared Kashmir.

This correspondent travelled north to understand the problem first hand. The findings were not bright. Cherry, apples, plum and strawberries – all fruit crop in the region – have been under the weather, pushing traders and producers into panic.

Apple

Kashmir is a major producer for apples and horticulture. Over 70% of India’s apples come from Kashmir. These, naturally, provide income to farmers, but also sustain the larger fruit economy involving labourers to traders and transporters. Any disruption in trade and production threatens to throw the state’s most hardworking people over the economic edge.

So when did the troubles begin? Since earlier this year, Kashmir has been seeing unusual weather patterns. By that I mean heat waves in February and March, 2023, causing the mustard to bloom at an unusual time. Then, the Kashmir Valley was hit with excessive hail storms and erratic rain. Temperatures in May became chilly, unexpectedly, while February and March were warm.

So to get a deeper understanding this correspondent stopped in Pulwama and spoke with Javid Ahmed a high-density apple farmer.

“All over the world climate is changing. Uneven rains, meaning changing of conventional patterns and temperatures is badly affecting us too. February had May-June temperatures and there was cold wave in May. As a result, the apple fruit size was affected and the fruits were not fully formed,” he said.

apples Kashmir

File photo of an apple market in Kashmir. Photo: PTI

“The worst affected are the upper Kashmir areas. I would estimate 50% losses in these regions and about 20%-30% in lower regions like lower Anantnag. Hailstorms have also caused huge devastation in Pulwama region,” he added.

Javid also showed us a “hail net” he has installed over his orchard to prevent damages. He believes without “hail nets” high density farming will be very difficult with current weather patterns.   

 

Plum

After tasting sour apples with Javid saheb, this correspondent spoke with Ghulam Muhamed Wani in Budgam. In his broken Hindi and Urdu, he explained that climate has been wreaking havoc on the farmers. Wani saw it has divine rage. He had 10 kanals of land and rented out another 30 kanals of plum orchards, right before the first hailstorms hit.

Showing us the damages, he said, “We have had two or three hailstorms till now, damaging most of the crops. At the end of May and then 20 days ago, we had experienced hailstorms. Our A-grade plum has become B-grade. And whereas I usually get 3,000 boxes from my 10 kanals, this year I haven’t even got 800.”

 

Cherry

Soon, it was time to talk about cherry, and this correspondent spoke with Tanveer Ul-Haq who works in the cherry canning industry. “We saw two varieties of cherry – early and mid varieties do well. But the late variety “mishri” which is the most delicious and highest price fetching for farmers suffer under erratic rainfall, especially in the Shopian region. Some farmers didn’t even harvest the fruits because they were so damaged,” he explained.

Moving from the production to the storage side of things, we met up with Maajid Wafai, president of the J&K fruit and vegetable processing and integrated cold chain association, JKPICCA. “Last year Kashmir saw a bumper apple harvest. But excessive supply in the market resulted in a price crash, creating panic in the market. The input costs increased and revenue were halved. Overall a bad year for growers as transportation cost was huge, and input costs coupled by hails soured the harvests. Our A-grade apples became B-grade due to climate damages,” he explained.

Commenting on the present situation he said, “We have to take 2021 production figures as reference point for apple production. And we can comfortably assert that this year instead of the average of 2.2 million tonnes, we have only about 1.5 to 1.6 million tonnes. The causes are clear and we feel that it is ruthless hailstorms and climate change. Customers will have to bear 30-40% increase in apple prices this year because it.”

“We are living in an environmentally fragile place. Our government should focus fully on saving of the environment of Kashmir. If this place is destroyed South Asia will suffer because all rivers comes from here. Agriculture is related to environment and we are witnessing an environmental catastrophe right now, the glaciers over Sonmarg area are not here for much longer.”

Measures

For the last word, we spoke with deputy director of the horticulture department of Jammu and Kashmir, Shafiqa Khalid. In conversation it became clear that Kashmir’s climate had changed a lot in the last few decades. 

“Erratic rainfall and weather disturbances are signs of global warming. Every place in the world is experiencing this. We did have early blooming due to high heat situations. Weather typical to May and June was setting in in February, whereas May saw sudden rain and chilly weather, impacting various fruits. Pollution and other reason are responsible for these changes, directly,” Khalid said.

“But nevertheless, our department is giving out advisories on hail and rainfall alerts. We are working with the farmers and also providing hail nets. The government has given a subsidy for putting up hail nets and we are doing our best. We even advise farmers on chemical use and fertilisers so they can recover from climate related damages and save their harvests,” she added.

 

Content Source – https://thewire.in/agriculture/is-climate-change-already-affecting-kashmirs-fruit-crop

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