With the weather in the valley continuing to be rainy, extending beyond the usual winter months that end in February, farmers and apple growers are worried about the impact this will have on the crop this year. The worst hit so far, according to farmers, is the almond crop.
“Almond trees have suffered hugely, with branches breaking down under the weight of continuous snow and rain,” says Shabir Ahmad, an almond grower in Tahab area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. “We don’t expect the crop to be good this year.”
The apple crop, on the other hand, hasn’t seen any significant impact of rainfall, Shabir adds, the reason being that the trees haven’t begun to flower yet.
The Kashmir valley, where 6 lakh households with 30 lakh people are involved in horticulture and allied trades, has seen continuous, heavy precipitation this year that has continued even with the onset of spring. The weather is not expected to have as much impact on the agriculture sector as on horticulture, with farmers saying much damage has already been caused to horticulture crops, which need a dry season for the flowers to blossom.
Jammu and Kashmir contributes around three per cent to the national fruit produce. During 2012-13, the state exported 5476.08 tonnes dry fruits — almond and walnut, both in shell and kernel — and earned Rs 204.75 crore.
“Due to the heavy rainfall, all blossomed flowers on the almond trees fell off,” says Sheikh Ashiq Hussain of Mattan in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Sheikh, who also grows apples, says if the rainfall continues, apple would not be ready in the right season either. “The apple market is driven by season. If we fail to supply apples at the right time, we will suffer huge losses.”
The state horticulture department acknowledges the impact of rainfall on crops but says a more pressing worry is a delay in the plantation of trees because of continuous rainfall. “We are concerned about the delay in plantation,” says Sonam Narboo, director for horticulture.
Narboo adds that due to recent avalanches in Kulgam and other areas, there have been reports of damage to various trees including almond. “Around eight to 10 per cent of horticulture has been affected by the continuous rainfall,” Narboo says.
Horticulture is a fast growing sector of the economy. According to the latest Jammu and Kashmir Economy Survey Report, horticultural produce accounts for almost 45 per cent of the returns in agriculture.
“The blossoming of flowers got delayed due to heavy rainfall because the fall in temperature restricted the process of plants coming out of dormancy,” says Akhtar Hussain, deputy director for horticulture. “There have been damages to the crop but the blossoming of flowers is not complete yet.”
Hussain says if the weather continues like this very long, the losses will be huge. “All we can do is hope the weather will become favourable for plants.”