And why not? For, Kanha is one of a few lucky exceptions whose orchards haven't been struck by a rampant apple drought in Himachal Pradesh this year. Official estimates put the total produce this year at less than 15 per cent of last year. Shimla, Kullu and Kinnaur, the major apple-growing districts, have all been hit badly. By all accounts, this is the worst year ever for Himachal's apple farmers. "Except last year, when everything favoured a good crop, the productivity graph in the '90s has been dropping discernibly," says Ravinder Chauhan of Kyari village in Shimla district. In a normal year, Chauhan's orchards produce about 4 to 5 lakh boxes of apples; this year it will be a few thousands.
Last year's bumper crop may help farmers tide over the present adversity. "But another failure of this scale next year may prove to be an economic disaster," says Surender Singh, a farmer in the Kotkhai tehsil of Shimla district. The scale of the disaster is not uniform. According to scientists, a large slice of luck helped farmers like Kanha Singh. Most of the lucky orchards are located at higher altitudes where moisture content is higher. But even here, there are exceptions to the rule which the scientists blame on bad management practices. But many farmers disagree. It is crucial, then, to know what caused this massive abortion.