Kashmir-based apple growers have expressed concern over what they call an illegal import of Iranian apples from Afghanistan to India. They say Iranian produce is being sold at Azadpur Mandi in Delhi and it is inflicting heavy losses on apple traders of Kashmir.
In a letter to vice-chairman Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers, Dealers Union, on Monday asked for restricting entry and sale of imported apples from Iran through Afghanistan.
“We don’t have any issue if apple produced in Iran is directly imported from Iran. But Iranian apple is imported through Afghanistan. And anything coming from Afghanistan is tax free and it sells very cheaply in India. It is affecting our market badly,” alleged an official of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers’ Union. He alleged that around 80 trucks carrying apples are coming from Afghanistan daily to India affecting the trade balance.
The annual production of apples in Kashmir Valley ranges from 1.5 million to 1.8 million metric tonnes and total cold storage capacity in the Valley is 120,000 to 130,000 MTs.
The union said for the past two years apple industry of the Valley has been struggling because of the lockdown imposed after revocation of Article 370 in 2019. The prolonged lockdown delayed harvesting that year causing huge losses.
In the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, fruit growers couldn’t visit their orchards to spray pesticides. This, according to them, led to scab diseases affecting around 60 per cent of the crop. “Now we are facing serious issues from Iranian apple imported through Afghanistan. We urge the government to look into the issue. Otherwise, it will prove disastrous to domestic apple production,” the union said.