Apple production, a crucial contributor to Himachal Pradesh's economy, is expected to experience a significant drop this year. Experts predict that this season's apple yield might be only half of the previous year's due to unpredictable weather conditions.
No snow, rain, hail, floods, losses
Apple growers have incurred substantial losses due to the absence of snowfall during winter followed by rainfall during the plants' flowering stage. Subsequently, hailstorms occurred when the fruits were about walnut-sized, followed by heavy rain and floods when the fruits were ready for harvest.
In the preceding year, around 33.6 million apple boxes were traded, as per state horticulture department data. The annual apple trade value ranges from Rs 4-5 crore. However, this year, apple production is projected to plummet to 1.5-2 crore (15-20 million) boxes. Apple cultivation spans 113,000 hectares in the state, according to government statistics.
Orchards in regions like Shimla and Kullu, known for apple cultivation, have incurred extensive damage due to heavy rains from July 7 to July 10. The horticulture sector has sustained a total loss of Rs 144 crore during this monsoon season, according to horticulture department records.
The torrential downpours have not only ravaged the apple crops but also caused severe damage to roads, hampering the transportation of produce to markets. Due to inadequate road infrastructure in certain parts of Shimla district, some growers have resorted to discarding their apple harvests into rivers and drains.
Apple cultivation is a vital source of livelihood for over 500,000 people directly associated with the industry in Himachal Pradesh.
Peaks, dips in apple production
Since 2010, when the state achieved a peak production of over four crore boxes, there have been only three instances where apple production dipped below two crore boxes—those being in 2011, 2012, and 2018.
Amitabh Awasthi, the Secretary of Horticulture, explains that this year's production decline to an estimated two crore boxes is a result of unfavorable weather conditions during various stages of fruit development. This stark decrease in production underscores the significant impact that unpredictable weather can have on fruit cultivation.
Despite a steady increase in the area under apple cultivation—from 1,01,485 hectares in 2010 to 1,14,646 hectares in 2020—the state has been unable to match its record 2010 production in the past 13 years.
While the past four years have seen relatively stable production levels around three crore boxes, a significant dip appears likely this year.
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