Surviving nearly 50 years export ban, a consignment of 150 kg Raktsey Karpo, the sweetest apricot, was sent to an international market in Dubai.
Apricot is the primary cash crop for the farmers of Kargil and its export to different states and foreign countries will provide a major boost to the local farmers, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Kargil Feroz Ahmad Khan said.
According to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), nearly 62 per cent of India’s apricots are produced in Ladakh.
Khan flagged off the first-ever international export to Dubai on Monday in presence of local entrepreneurs. Khan said the export of fresh apricot outside Ladakh was “banned” and the resumption of export marks an important milestone for Kargil apricot growers.
Senior politician of Ladakh region Asgar Ali Karbali said the ban on the export of fresh fruit including apricot from the Ladakh region was imposed on an assumption that due to codling moth (Cydia pomonella) emerging on apricot, its export will pose danger to fresh fruit in J&K and outside.
Experts say in India codling moth was restricted to the cold arid region of Ladakh and it was supposed to have entered Ladakh from North-Western Frontier Provence of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The then government in 1974 to avoid the spread of codling moth to apple growing areas especially Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir restricted marketing and supply of apricot produce from the Ladakh region under J&K Pest and disease act. “The ban on the export of fresh fruit from Ladakh was imposed based on an assumption and over the years no effort was made to lift the ban despite our regular appeals to relook at it,” Karbali said.
In January this year Executive Councilor (EC) Agriculture, LAHDC Kargil Mohd Ali, met Director General Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, at Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi, and sought lifting of the ban on export fresh fruits from Ladakh to the rest of the country. He had said the export ban not only limits area expansion under temperate fruits but also makes them weaker economically, as, at present, the district Kargil is leading in the production of Apricot with 9033 MT annually from about 16 sq km cultivated area.
Khan said the initiative would pave way for local entrepreneurs to participate in the value chain of apricot and ensure that the farmers of Kargil benefit from reduced wastage and receive the real value of their crop. He said apricot has recently been identified as the primary crop for Kargil under the ODOC programme of the Government of India.
Krishak Agritech, a farmer-centric organization that is working with farmers across the Himalayan states undertook this mammoth task to find a way to export and markets for the apricots, officials said. So far Krishak Agritech has exported 20 MT of fresh apricot worth Rs 30 lacs procured from more than 200 farmers of UT Ladakh.
Apricot fruit is known for its high content of Vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, carbohydrates, amino acids, sugar, and potassium. For decades the people of Ladakh have consumed the humble apricot, locally known as Chuli. An integral part of the local culture, dry and fresh apricots are served as desserts, particularly during traditional festivals.
Researchers at the Defense Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) began studying the Raktsey Karpo sometime in 2013. It was during their research when they found that Raktsey Karpo is unique to Ladakh, even though locals have been consuming it for generations.