February 14, 2011 2:03:23 am
The long winter season in the upper reaches of Himachal has raised hope of a quality apple crop in the upcoming season. This is good news for apple growers,as last year,despite a bumper crop,the growers had to pick small fruit due to early flowering in the month of February and a glut in the market during harvest season.
Horticulture experts,who are assessing the situation in the apple belt,have reported that the scale of apple production,where production was in excess during the previous year,may not be as much but growers are set to reap gains in terms of quality. Last year,apple production had touched nearly 40 million apple boxes (of 20 kg each).
However,there are still clouds of uncertainty over the possibility of apple producers being able to export good quality apples this year,since the state government has gone slow on setting up modern grading and packaging houses aimed at apple export. This is despite the fact that a Rs 12.5-crore grant has been sanctioned for it by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA),a Government of India undertaking.
Member,Board of Directors at APEDA,Prakash Thakur says,The HPMC,a state PSU,had been sanctioned grant by APEDA in March 2010 for modern packaging houses at Reckong Peo in Kinnaur,Jarol Tikkar and Gumma,Nadaun in Hamirpur,Patlikhul in Kullu and Oddi in Kumarsain in Shimla district,but so far tenders have been awarded only for units at Jarol Tikkar and Gumma in Shimla district to a Dutch company. If these units come up soon,the growers can also avail benefit of transport subsidy on apple export from APEDA,for which there is a Rs100-crore kitty.
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The grading and packaging houses are proposed to have modern technology,like infra-red eye facility,to sort out best quality apples for export. The facility has been lacking in the public sector in Himachal except for at a couple of private ventures of Adani group and Reliance Fresh.
Talking to The Indian Express Horticulture Expert Dr. S.P. Bhardwaj said,The required 1100 chilling hours for apple in winter season have already been completed this year and we are heading towards 1250 chilling hours. It is good for quality and reducing incidence of disease. Last year due to early flowering crop was abundant but could not gain good size. However,during my recent visits to apple orchards I found the spurs (fruit buds) in very healthy state,which is sign of good quality.
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