Kashmiri apple growers are demanding that the Indian government take strong action to stop the illicit movement of Iranian apples through Afghanistan to markets in India. They claim the practice is depressing prices and undermining a $150 million annual regional industry.
According to the growers, there is evidence that the Iranian apples are being shipped through Afghanistan so they can be imported into India duty free under the terms of the eight-country South Asian Free Trade Area.
Kashmir's cool climate makes it a favored region for growing fruit and nuts, some 2.6 million tons of which are shipped annually to more than 150 markets across India as well as overseas. The apple industry alone is an important source of livelihood for 3.5 million people in Indian-administered Kashmir.
But a large share of this year's bumper crop is sitting unsold in cold storage sites, the result of a combination of unusual transport problems and, the Kashmiri growers say, unfair competition from Iran.