Iranian apple imports spell the end of Kashmir’s apple industry
Srinagar: Threatened by looming disaster for the centuries-old apple industry in Kashmir, local fruit growers have called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to prevent the âillegal entryâ of Iranian apples into Indian markets.
Iranian apples that flood Indian markets are “in disguise” and routed through Afghanistan for zero rights under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) pact.
SAFTA is an agreement between eight South Asian countries. Afghanistan and India are members of SAFTA and therefore do not impose duties on certain imports from each other.
Although Iran is not part of SAFTA, apples from that country reach India via Afghanistan, bypassing import duties.
The result is that while a box of good quality Kashmiri apples costs Rs 1,200 in terminal markets, its Iranian counterpart costs only Rs 700 a box.
The Kashmiri fruit growers said in their communication to the Prime Minister: âWe would like to inform you that several fruit traders import and throw Iranian apples arriving via Afghanistan / Dubai in our country and this situation has put the whole of our fruits the industry of J&K (UT) and Himachal Pradesh in a very precarious situation because it has eaten away our market share.
âThis illegal and illegal dumping of Iranian apples in our country is not only disastrous for the small and marginal producers of J&K (UT) / Himachal Pradesh, but also causes huge losses for the public purse. We ask you yourselves to prohibit the arrival of Iranian apples via Afghanistan / Dubai in our country in order to also save the horticultural industry of UT of J&K and Himachal Pradesh â.
Local fruit growers say more than 3 crore of boxes of apples are unsold in the valley, including 1.5 crore at various cold storage facilities.
Since Iranian apples are legally not eligible for zero duty under SAFTA, Kashmiri fruit growers demanded the imposition of 100 percent import duties on them.
Abdul Rashid Lone, an apple orchard in the northern Kashmir district of Kupwara, said: âThe Afghan ‘clothes’ of Iranian apples is a crime, but more than that it means disaster for us. We have to spend a lot of money to afford at least five fungicide / pesticide sprays each year. Add to that the cost of manuring, aeration, monitoring and guarding, etc., then our cost per box of good quality apples is around Rs 200 per box. Then we have to pay for the transport of the products to the terminal markets. There is no way that our quality apples can compete on the market price with Iranian apples exempt from duty under SAFTA â.
Outside the valley, apples are also cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. These states are also suffering from the illegal entry of Iranian apples into our markets, says Muhammad Shafi Bhat, another apple grower from the northern Kashmir district of Ganderbal.
Shafi says Iranian apples are selling like hot cakes due to lower rates, which has lowered demand for domestically grown apples.
Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Traders Union Chairman Basheer Ahmad Basheer said that unless Iranian apple is legally taxed, two to three more years would be enough for Kashmir apples to disappear from the market. markets.
Interestingly, contrary to what many people believe, tourism is not Kashmir’s biggest industry. It is horticulture and this industry plays a vital role in the economy of J&K, with an annual turnover of Rs 1200 crore. It provides direct and indirect jobs to around 23 lakh people.
There seems to be some confusion at the official level at J&K as to the authenticity of the zero-duty status of the Iranian apple.
Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, Director General of Horticulture (Kashmir), said: “You cannot stop an international treaty and trade”. Fruit growers reject the claim because they believe that the zero duty granted to importing Iranian apples is not part of any good faith trade or falls under the SAFTA agreement.