AR Bhat

The land of Kashmir is a paradise on earth for temperate fruits and various types of crops. Climatic condition of the valley supports agro-ecological settings for growing of various types of fruits and crops. Kashmir produces many varieties of Apple but only seven types are grown on a commercial scale. Shireen, Kesaer. Firdous, Delicious, Ambri, Treal, Maharaji and Royal Misri are some of the known varieties.
India today is the third largest apple producing country in the world after China and USA. Out of total apples produced in India, 67.7% apples are produced in Kashmir Valley. The history of Apples is linked to the Silk Route and the origin of this fruit can be traced to Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, which means Full of Apples.

What makes Kashmir ideal for apples? Apples require cold winters with temperature at around 70C and moderate summer temperatures ranging from 21-240C with some humidity. It also requires elevation of 1500 to 2800 meters above Mean Sea Level. The average summer temperature should be around 21-240C during active growth period Apple succeeds best in regions where the trees experience uninterrupted rest in winter and abundant sunshine for good color development. It can be grown at an altitude of 1500-2700m above the sea level. Well distributed rainfall of 1000-1250 mm throughout is most favourable for optimum growth. Considering these factors, Sopore becomes the most ideal location for apples and for this aspect Sopore is known as the Apple town of Kashmir and having the second largest Fruit Mandi in Asia.
The beautiful landscape of Sopore is dotted with Apple orchards which change colour as per the season. Some orchards have dense population while others are sparse. The average number of plants in an area of one hectare can range between 200 to 1250. Sopore has about 25000 hectares under apple cultivation at an average yield of about 10.5 metric tons per hectare. In Sopore, mainly seven types of apples are grown – Ambri Kashmir, American Teral, Delicious, Maharaji, Piazratbali, Kesari and Royal Misri. A few years ago, European varieties such as the M-9 and M-6 were also introduced to farmers in Sopore.

The imported varieties fetch 17 tons per hectare while the traditional ones only produce 10.5-12 tons per hectare. The apples once harvested are packed in unique 4 layered cartons. The crates or cartons hold four layers of apples and between the layers of apples are grass and paper. The packaging is usually done by the farmers themselves with the help of labourers. The apples are then sent to the Sopore Fruit Mandi where the farmers sell their stock. From the Fruit Mandi the apples are sent to various states across the country by means of trucks.

The growing apple production is creating more job opportunities for the
locals and also engaging the women folk in this industry. Apple growing is the mainstay of Sopores economy by way of employment in farms – from planting to harvest, from packaging to transportation and from storage to distribution. In fact, apple farming has also created ancillary industries such as fruit preservation and packaging.

The scope for the growth of apple industry in Sopore is vast if the youth is encouraged. With the government incentives to the population of Sopore promoting Apple plantation, there is no doubt we will see a more vibrant atmosphere in the days to come. Apple production will help the population of Sopore in being economically sound, and foster engagement in productive, conducive activities. This industry will also cater for improvement in the social fabric of Sopore and inculcate a sense of communal bonding through occupation. The proverb An apple a day keeps the doctor away holds very true for the context that a prosperous harvest season will do wonders for the local population. Apple production being the main source of income for many at Sopore, should be widely promoted and encouraged locally, as this will provide a sense of positivity, normalcy and growth to the community.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of Daily Gadyal.

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