Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?
Dhaar Mehak M
The horticulture sector is seen as the backbone of the Kashmir economy steadily replacing the tourism sector in terms of sustainability and future prospectus. Given the environmental feasibility, Kashmir has been identified as one of India’s most dynamic horticulture hotspots. During the final decades of the 20th century, the region of Kashmir has seen a steady shift from paddy cultivation to apple cultivation. For quite some time the output and outcomes from the orchards of Kashmir have been high. This has ushered in a wave of optimism and people have been heavily investing in high-yielding apple varieties. More or less on an annual basis, people have revealed satisfaction with the outcomes.
The year 2022 has been identified as a bumper year of apple production in Kashmir (apart from other horticulture products). The apple blooms in spring were studied and identified by the experts where it was predicted that the year from across the valley was going to deliver a bumper crop. A wave of happiness ad optimism ran in the supply chain from orchardists to the dealers. Given the demand and pricing trends of previous years, the expected outcomes from 2022 were anticipated to surpass the mean value of the previous decades by a double-digit. However, as the output was ready and entered the market, the returning price was the lowest registered in the previous decade. Among many other factors, a predominant factor behind this was the bulk Indian import of Iranian and Turkish Apples that captured the market and wiped out the demand for Kashmiri apples.
Looking through an alternative economic and horticultural lens, the complete reliance on apples as the sole and dominant outcome of the horticulture sector in Kashmir is a risk of putting all the eggs in one basket. The first step to diversification has been identified as a steady production of kiwi fruit. In contemporary times the only state that is producing kiwis in India is Himachal Pradesh. Lately, Himachal orchardists have realized that diversification is important, and the immediate consequence has been a steady shift to kiwi production. The environmental conditions in both Himachal and Kashmir are equally preferable for kiwi production.
In the first week of November the average price of 18 kgs of Apples in Sopore Mandi peaked at Rs.350 which doesn’t even cover the half basic price of production. Quite contrary to this, one unit of kiwi costs Rs.35 in the local market and one kiwi plant yields 70 kg of kiwis on an average. One kg of dried Kiwis costs Rs.1800 in the market. And the demand for kiwis is very high both in the national and the international markets.
At the moment, SKUAST-K is actively researching in the direction of improvising the kiwi plantation suitable specifically to the Kashmir region. Simultaneously, sale of the kiwi trees is carried-out from time to time. Lately a small number of orchardists from the Baramulla and Sopore area of North Kashmir have been steadily diversifying towards kiwi production. However, during their experimental stages, they are more than happy with their outcomes. The market value of the output has been promising and so is the durability of the output. The kiwi packaging however is different from that of the apple packages and the kiwi farmers of Kashmir complain that at the moment they are not able to find the required packaging solutions.
The authors are affiliated to the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org & misb