Snowfall damages apple trees, crop

An orchard damaged in snowfall in Anantnag. —Excelsior/Sajad Dar
An orchard damaged in snowfall in Anantnag. —Excelsior/Sajad Dar

It is natural calamity, assessing losses: Govt

Suhail Bhat

SRINAGAR, Nov 11: An unexpected snowfall in November during harvesting season of the apple caused extensive damage to the orchards and harvested crop in Kashmir.
Looking at the extent of damage, the authorities have decided to declare it “a natural calamity” and compensate growers after assessing the damages. “Just like last year and in relaxation of the SDRF (State Disaster Relief Fund) norms, it would be declared as natural calamity. We have been asked to conduct a survey along with Revenue officials and asses the loss. The growers will be compensated as per the assessment report, “Director Horticulture, Aijaz Bhat told Excelsior. He added that the compensation would be provided between Rs 4000 to Rs 72,000 based on the extent of damage.
The apple growers said that the orchards suffered heavy damages as trees could not withstand the snowfall owing to the presence of foliage. Before the onset of winter the growers would prune apple, pear and other fruit trees to avoid damages. This year, however, the snow came down in autumn and before the shedding of leaves.
Some growers have harvested the apples crop while others were in the process of doing so. In both cases pruning of the trees was not done and that intensified the damage. “We were yet to carry pruning and foliage was also intact. The trees suffer damages as snow was too heavy for them. The snowfall was unexpected,” Basit Ahmad a resident of Shopian said.
He said that the snow has devastated his orchards by damaging over 60 trees. “The trees are flat on the ground and not a single tree is standing. It takes years of hard work to raise an apple tree. But all is gone now. We are helpless,” he added.
The standing crop has also been damaged as some apple varieties are yet to be harvested. “The apple laden trees have been damaged as well. Some varieties including Maharji and American are yet to be picked. The damage cannot be fixed,” Gul Mohammad, a grower said.
Apart from the trees, the harvested crop which was stored in the open spaces has also suffered damages. “I had placed apple boxes in an open space in my orchard. The boxes are damaged and need to be replaced. The entire process of packing has to be repeated and that requires manpower. We are yet to assess the damages,” Javeed Ahmad Dar, another orchardist said.
Harmain and Imam Sahab areas of South Kashmir’s Shopian district were worst affected. The apple orchards have also suffered damages in Pulwama, Damhal Hanjipora and Dachnipora areas of Anantnag district. The orchards of North Kashmir’s Sopore and Baramulla areas have equally suffered.
An official of the Horticulture Department said as per the initial assessment the damage is more than 40 percent in Shopian and Kulgam districts which are known for producing quality apples.
He said 25 percent fruit which was yet to be harvested in these twin districts also stands damaged. “The preliminary figures suggest the orchards have suffered 30 percent damage,” he said.
Meanwhile, the orchardists have demanded compensation for the losses. “It is a natural calamity and Government should compensate us for the loss,” another orchadist said.
The orchadists were already suffering due to the prevailing lockdown in the Valley and snowfall has added to their worries. “We were facing problems in sending our fruits out of the Valley and snowfall has increased our problems,” Muzzafar Ahmad Shah, a grower said.
The snowfall also affected the saffron crop as growers were yet to pick up last flushes of flowers. “We have not picked the last two-three flushes of crop, but those are gone now. The saffron fields are shrouded with snow,” Abul Majeed, a saffron grower said.