SRINAGAR— The Centre’s decision to reduce import duty on US apples has sounded a death knell to the Kashmir fruit industry.
Political parties and fruit growers have called for the withdrawal of the order which has the potential to cripple the local industry.
On September 5, the Union finance ministry lifted 20 percent retaliatory import duty on American apples, almonds, chickpeas, and walnuts. Centre had imposed additional taxes on certain products after the United States raised taxes on certain items exported from India in 2019.
According to reports, India was the second-largest export market for Washington apples, accounting for a business of $120 million in 2017. With the increase in duty post-2017, the import of Washington apples dropped significantly.
“Lifting of additional duties from US apples will hit our apple industry and the growers will again face the problems. We hope the central government will reconsider the decisions as the economy of J&K and Himachal Pradesh is based on the fruit trade,” said Fayaz Ahmad Malik, President of Fruit Mandi Sopore.
The decision to withdraw the duty comes days before the G 20 Summit and US President Joe Biden’s India visit.
“In order to keep the Americans and the people from other countries happy, where is the need to make the lives of the people of Kashmir difficult? We would imagine that the central government would think about the local people first. If not us, then the people of Uttarakhand and Himachal? However, all are in the same boat now and will face the consequences of this decision,” said Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and National Conference vice-president.
Jammu and Kashmir is the largest producer of apples in the country. In Jammu and Kashmir, fruit is cultivated on around 33,15,85 hectares of land of which 16,47,42 hectares are under apple cultivation.
Horticulture contributes more than Rs 6000 crore to the J&K economy annually. The average production of apples is 10 MT per hectare. This is the highest among all fruits. The average production of all other fruits is 5 to 6 MT per hectare.
Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the decision will have a devastating effect on local growers in J&K already grappling with huge losses post-2019. “Hope @PMOIndia reconsiders,” Mehbooba wrote on X.
Apple Farmer’s Federation of India has been constantly campaigning and raising the issues and demands confronting the apple farmers of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
“We urge the Government of India to roll back the decision and demand imposing a 100% import duty on apples, and walnuts in the larger interests of growers who are under debt and unable to even recoup the input costs, in view of inflation,” said Mohommad Yousuf Tarigami, CPIM leader.