India: Jammu & Kashmir pears are struggling still

The government’s decision to loop in the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) to procure this season’s apple harvest from Jammu and Kashmir has been an important move for apple growers. But what will be done for the pear growers?

This year’s pear season coincided with the communications blackout and curbs on movement, imposed on 4 August, the day before the special status of Jammu & Kashmir was retracted and it was announced that they would become two separate union territories.

When the government decided to ease some restrictions in the third week of August, a people’s curfew began, which continues even now. The pear harvest was caught in the middle, and though official numbers are not out yet, different stakeholders speculate a zero-profit situation. Growers and traders say they’ve had to sell pears at nearly one-eighth of the usual price, or about 12.5 per cent.

“Unfortunately, the pear harvest suffered massively this year. We had a bumper crop this season and the returns were almost nil,” said J.A. Bhat, chief horticulture officer in Srinagar. We are trying to ensure the same does not happen to the apple harvest and that is why the deal with NAFED becomes crucial.”

Last year, J&K produced more than 86,000 tonnes of pear. The fruit is cultivated in all three regions of the former state — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — and in virtually every district, though Budgam tops the list. According to official documents, 3,3 mln people from around 700,000 families are directly or indirectly involved in the fruit trade.

In Kashmir, J&K horticulture department officials said, pear is produced mainly in Uri and Budgam — the Naakh and Babugosha pear varieties contribute 85-95 per cent of the total pear production. Babugosha alone accounts for 50-60 per cent of the pear harvest, and is the driving force behind the pear economy.

“Both pear and apple are divided into A, B and C categories, with A being the best. A single box of A category babugosha yields somewhere between Rs 750-800. But this time, the rate was Rs 100-350. Even the costs incurred by us in transporting the fruit from Kashmir to Delhi or Jammu were not recovered,” said Bashir Ahmed Bashir, chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers’ Union.

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