Bani apple finds no buyers

Shiv Kumar Padha
It is globally acknowledged that the whole of Jammu &Kashmir state abounds in natural beauty and is known as the orchard of Asia, where Ladakh is known for its unique geographical characteristics, topography and the kind of world famous dry fruit, Jammu and Kashmir regions are known for thick grooves of forests, vast stretches of snow, rattling brooks, high pine trees, lush green meadows and pastures, springs with crystal clear water, snow clad mountain peaks and the seasonal fruit like apples, baggu gosha, cherry, khobani, peaches and saffron etc.
So far as the production of the seasonal fruit like apple and gosha etc. is concerned Bani area is in no way behind its counterpart Kashmir .Both Kashmir and Bani apples are known for their crispiness’ juiciness and sweetness with the difference that the Kashmir apple looks lustrous, shining, healthy and are marketed in standard packing which fetch good returns for apple growers, whereas Bani apple looks very rough, ugly, spotted and full of scars because they suffer from many diseases like canker which is transmitted through the bark of the tree and cause sunscald or fire blight infection, fruit spots and rots where fungi cause superficial spots or specks on fruit surface, chlorosis – a common disorder of apples, crabapple and mountain ash which leave the leaves yellow and small, root injury and damage caused due to the root disturbance upsetting the supply of air and water needed for the tree. No doubt these diseases do not affect the eating quality of the fruit, they, however, are not presentable before the customers in the market. It seems very humorous that on the one hand, state government is vociferously clamouring to boost the fruit specially the apple industry in the state and, on the other, it is totally neglecting the quality improvement of Bani area apples. Does it mean that the popular state government is committed and serious about the development of apple orchards of Kashmir only? It is very strange that there is no such agency in Bani area which can educate the apple growers about the common diseases of the apples, their treatment and use of proper and timely use of pesticides. In the absence of guidance and expert assistance from the horticulture department the apple crop of Bani is completely left at the mercy of God from blossoming to the fruit bearing stage. During the development of the fruit on the tree no care is taken of the fruit and the tree .
This crop is reared like the crop of maize, wheat and other cereals .The apple growers of Bani area are totally ignorant about the common and special kind of diseases which destroy the apple crop on the tree. Due to the lack of knowledge about the common disease of the apple crop and their treatment, the growers take their yield wrapped in gunny bags to the nearby markets of Basohli, Mahanpur and Billawer where their produce of apples is sold at throw away price rendering heavy losses to the apple growers. It will be worth mentioning here that these trees have been brought by some enthusiastic persons of Bani area from Himachal Pradesh and were planted about 20 years ago. Since then no government agency did take interest in apple crop of Bani nor new trees of superior quality have apples been planted in the area, with the result, the orchard owners are still harboring upon the old techniques of nurturing the apple crop in the area.
On the contrary, the apple industry of Kashmir gets VIP treatment at the hands of Jammu and Kashmir government. In order to bring Kashmir applie apples on international standards, Government provides them all facilities and provides them pesticides and other items on war footing basis. The government advances loans to the apple growers for standardized packing, arranges for the transport of apples to the remotest markets of the country and that of the world, provides insurance facility for the apple orchards. The whole apple season of Kashmir is monitored strictly in terms of transportation of the produce and its marketing.
It is encouraging that in spite of discrimination of apple crop of Bani by the concerned departments of the state, it is still competing with the apple industry of Kashmir and that of Himachal Pradesh. The farmers and owners of apple orchards of Bani are hard working and intelligent, a small assistance by the horticulture department of the state can result into the flourishing and excellent quality of the apples in the state. It is therefore, emphasized upon the state government to
* Take along all the segments of the state together in the matter of progress and development.
* Pay attention to the apple crop in the Jammu segment in general and Bani area in particular. Appoint an expert team to look after the apple crop provide assistance in the treatment of disease of the apple crop and suggest curative measures in order to get good quality apples.
* Appoint team of experts and scientists and establish a research laboratory in Bani area to develop new species of apples and monitor the growth of apples from blooming stage to the harvesting.
* Help provide cheap loans to the apple growers of Bani in order to enable them purchase medicines and pesticides for the protection of their crop.
* Provide them with sophisticated type of packing devices and market for selling their produce easily and with dignity.
* Special economical packages and funds aimed at the development of the various kinds of orchards in the state be made available to the farmers of Bani area so that they can start their vocation a fresh and become economically self sufficient.
It is high time and also the demand of the hour to consider the problems of the apple growers of Bani area seriously and device some means and strategy so that the apples of Bani and that of the valley can attract a good number of customers in the national and international markets.


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