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Govt shuts eyes towards axing of almond trees

Suhail Bhat

Srinagar, Feb 21:  The almond growers in South Kashmir are axing their trees on mass scale and shifting to other crops as Government has failed to introduce new and high yielding varieties.
The growers alleged that the failure of the department to introduce high yielding varieties that could produce good almonds are forcing them to switch over to the apple cultivation. They said that apple gets good attention from the department and a better marketing mechanism fetches good prices.
Pulwama district had large area under the almond cultivation but many farmers in the district have now shifted to apple cultivation while others have altogether stopped growing any fruit. The areas including Wahbook, Ruhmoo, Newa and Koel are the worst affected wherein growers are uprooting the almond trees.
Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Wahibug area of Pulwama who has shifted to apple cultivation after finding no takers of his almond produce in the market said: “The department is hardly taking care of almond trees and growers. All the attention is given to apple cultivation. The revenue thus generated is always far less than what we invest. There is no market for the local produce and the department too has not provided high-yielding varieties to the growers that would produce quality almond”.
He further said that lack of expert advice and inadequate marketing is denting the industry badly. “The experts do not visit our orchards. Almonds are not being marketed well. There is not a single almond Mandi in Kashmir”, Bhat said.
Chief Horticulture Officer Pulwama, Akhter Hussain,  blame the rapid conversion of the land for non-agriculture purposes for the axing of almond trees and said that the department is doing its best to save the crop. “Our research team is continuously working on the high yielding and late bloom varieties  which will improve the production”, he said.
He said apart from introducing new varieties of almonds time and again we regularly monitor the orchards and provide expert advice to the growers. “Like in 2014, more than one thousand almond trees of high yielding varieties were provided to the growers. We also conduct workshops and awareness camps regarding various farming techniques”, he said.

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