Kashmir growers send SoS to Prime Minister Modi and LG Sinha as apple prices drop due to Iranian imports

Srinagar: Last week, when a truckload of Iranian apples entered India via the Wagha border last week, it drove down prices of Kashmiri apples by more than 30% at the Azadpur fruit mandi in New Delhi .

Worried and distressed, fruit growers in the valley have sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha demanding a ban on duty-free apple from Iran to India.

“The Galamast variety, which used to be sold at Rs 1200 per box, is now selling for Rs 800 per box at Azadpur mandi. We have written to the Prime Minister and LG to ban the import otherwise Kashmir’s horticulture will suffer a massive setback,” said Bashir Ahmad Basheer, Chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Association.

The apple harvest season has started in Kashmir and growers are worried about imports of cheaper Iranian varieties.

Already facing high packing rates, fruit growers in Kashmir have already started to feel the heat as Iranian apples have begun to invade Indian markets.

“Imports increase during the high season in Kashmir. Within a month, our main variety of “delicious” apples will be harvested. We are concerned that if Iranian apples are imported, it may cause heavy losses,” Bashir said.

Bashir said cheaper Iranian apples flood Indian markets from December to March. As a result, prices for premium Kashmir apples fall by 40%.

“The Iranian apple costs only 40 to 50 rupees per kilogram. Previously, they reached the Indian market through ports. Now they are shipped by ground. If the import from Iran continues during the peak season, Kashmir’s horticulture will experience the worst phase,” Bashir said.

According to Bashir, fruit products from the valley have not had a satisfactory market so far this year. “Babgosha sells for Rs 500-800 per box. The market for other varieties has also not been satisfactory,” he said.

Last year, farmers in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh formed a joint group to fight illegal Iranian imports.

The data reveals that Iran exported 1947.19 tons of apples worth USD 1.82 million from April 2021 to January 2022.

North Kashmir Fruit Growers Chairman Fayaz Ahmad Malik said the government will have to ban or impose a tax on Iranian apples to save the local industry.

“Horticulture provides jobs for thousands of people. The government will have to ban the import of Iranian apples before the peak season. Growers are already nervous given their past experience with the flow of this cheaper apple variety,” he said.

A horticulture department official said they would raise the issue with the government.

Edward N. Arrington