Kashmir has lost more than half of land under almond in a single year as the growers have axed their almond trees in their orchards bringing down the dry fruit production by 29 per cent in 2015.
Officials in horticulture department blame the climate change and rapid conversion of the land for non-agriculture purposes as main causes of the axing of almond trees. The latest government data on the growth of horticulture crops in the valley has painted a grim picture of almond cultivation in the valley, especially in Srinagar and Budgam districts.
Budgam district had highest land under the almond cultivation in previous years but many farmers in the central Kashmir district have now shifted to apple cultivation while others have altogether stopped growing any fruit. Alone in the district 5665 hectares of almond land were lost in 2015.
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Gulzar Ahmad Zargar, a resident of Beerwah area of Budgam had over 10 kanals of land under almond cultivation since 1900s but same has now got reduced to some eight trees. The grower has shifted to apple cultivation after finding no takers of his almond produce in the market.
“The revenue generated was always far less than what we invest. There is no market for the local produce and the department too has not provided any high-yielding plant that would produce quality almond,” Zargar told The Indian Express.
The summer capital Srinagar has lost 48 per cent of the land under almond crop and the produce has got reduced to the two-digit number of 58 metric tonnes. Chief Horticulture Officer Srinagar R K Tikku said the previous survey on horticulture crops had included the villages of neighbouring districts like Ganderbal and Budgam.
“The local almond faces a tough competition from the California almonds. The colour and size of our produce is much lower. The climate too has not been favorable as the trees get early bloom now and then it easily vanishes when temperature goes down” he said.
The almond production had touched the 10K mark in 2014 but the same has now got reduced to 7,055 metric tonnes now but what is worrisome is the loss of 8,369 hectares of land in a single year. Growers in Kashmir had almond trees over 15,350 hectares of land in 2014 but same stands now at 6,981 hectares in the valley.
Almond production has been fluctuating in the valley during past five years with the production touching as high as 12497 metric tonnes in 2010 but the same had got reduced to mere 3243 MTs in 2011. Earlier, the area under almond production would be around 18,000 hectares.