State-wide protests today by Himachal Pradesh apple growers

Express News Service

CHANDIGARH:  Due to a surge in the production of apples in Himachal Pradesh, the price of the fruit has fallen diacritically this year. It’s price is ranging from Rs 12 to Rs 74 per kilo.  Apple growers are upset with the state government. They have formed the Sanyukt Kisan Manch (SKM). On Monday, they will stage a state-wide protest. If demands are not met, a bigger protest is planned for September 27. It is after 31 years that apple growers of Himachal are protesting, perhaps inspired by farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

Talking to this daily, Harish Chauhan, convenor of  SKM, said there are 1.20 lakh apple grower families across the hill state and 1,14,646 hectors are under apple cultivation. This year, they are expecting 3-3.5 crore boxes of apple (each box 25 kilogram). Last year, this was  2.5 crore boxes. “This year due to bumper crop, price of apples have fallen,” he adds.

“There are around 25 farmers’ organisations in the state, which are part of the newly-formed SKM. On Monday,  we will hold a state-wide protest in 24 places the state demanding better rates for apple and give a memorandums to the officers,  if our demands are not met, a bigger protest is planned. On August 30, we contacted the Chief Minister’s Office and requested a meeting with CM Jai Ram Thakur. There was  no response and we gave them 15 days time to revert,” he added.

“The three main demands are stopping exploitation of apple growers on the pattern of Jammu and Kashmir. They have a Market Intervention Scheme under which apples are graded. For A grade, the price is Rs 60 peg kilo, for B Rs 44 and for C Rs 24. We want strict implementation of an act so that apple growers get the payment the same day. Right now, it takes a minimum of 15 days and at times, one to two years to get payment.”

There are other demands. “We want Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Marketing & Processing Corporation and Himachal Pradesh State Cooperative Marketing and Consumers Federation Limited to roll back the hike in transportation charges. Also, there should be compensation for apple growers of crop destroyed and damaged by late snow and hail storm,” added Chauhan.

Chauhan said that in Himachal the grading is for only C grade apples since 1983. This year, the rate is Rs 9.50 per kilo, while last year it was Rs 8.50. “There is no grading for A and B. Adani Agri Fresh is buying apples at Rs 74 per kg for A grade, which is Rs 14 less than last year’s price. C Grade apples are bought at Rs 12 per kilo. Last year, it ws Rs 18.” He said  there should be a government agency to regulate rates.

1.14 lakh hectares Area under apple cultivation

2.50 crore boxes (each box 25 kg)  Production in 2020

3-3.5 crore boxes Expected production in 2021

6-10 lakh MT Annual production in Himachal

18-25 lakh MT Annual production in J&K