The famed Kashmiri apples are one of the most cultivated fruits in the valley and the annual production is estimated to be around Rs 1,200 crore. 
Apple farming also provides direct and indirect employment to about 23 lakh people in the valley.
But now this is facing an increasing threat – from Iranian apples.
Kashmir Apple BCCL
According to apple farmers and traders in Kashmir, cheaper Iranian apples are flooding the market, threatening their livelihoods.
They alleged that the Iranian apple which cost Rs 700 per box, are illegally imported to India pretending to be from Afghanistan.
As part of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), products from Afghanistan can be imported to India, without paying import duties.
However, according to farmers and traders in Kashmir, Iranian apples are re-routed through Afghanistan to bypass the import duties and since it is cheaper, it is eating up their market.
kashmir apple BCCL
In contrast to the Iranian apples that cost Rs 700 for a box, Kashmiri apples cost around Rs 1,200 for the same quality.
“The Afghan ‘clothing’ of the Iranian apples is a crime, but more than that, it spells disaster for us. We have to spend a lot of money to afford at least five fungicide/pesticide sprays each year. Add to this the cost of manuring, aerating, watch and ward etc then our cost per box of good quality apple comes to around Rs 200 per box. Then we have to pay for transportation of the produce to the terminal markets. There is no way our quality apples can compete in the market price with the Iranian apples exempted from duty under SAFTA,” Abdul Rashid Lone, an apple orchardist in north Kashmir Kupwara said.
kashmir apple BCCL
President of Kashmir Valley fruit growers cum dealers union, Basheer Ahmad Basheer said unless the Iranian apple is lawfully taxed, another two to three years would be enough for the Kashmir apples to vanish from the markets.
Facing an existential threat, the apple farmers have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention.
They said that the illegal dumping of Iranian apples are not just affecting Kashmir, but states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand also where apples are grown.
kashmir apple BCCL
With a drop in demand, according to farmers, over 3 crore apple boxes are lying unsold in the Valley, 1.5 crore of these in various cold storage facilities.
The threat from Iranian apples is the latest hurdle the apple farmers in Kashmir are facing.
At the start of the apple picking season, the farmers had struggled to harvest the fruits on time as the valley witnessed a mass exodus of migrant workers following a series of targeted killings.
The shortage of storage space, including cold storage, is also resulting in a large portion of the harvested apples getting spoiled even before it reaches the markets.
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