DNA | 10 January 2018
Cheap Chinese apples sour J&K fruit
China’s new zero-import duty policy threatens to sour Kashmir’s famed apples for farmers. China’s proposal which falls under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)’s ambit of a free-trade pact, could sound the death knell for the Rs 7,000 crore fruit industry.
"There have been many difficulties caused by Chinese apples coming into the market and if cheap Chinese apples further flood it, it will devastate our fruit sector," said Bashir Ahmad Basheer, president of New Kashmir Fruit Association.
The 19th and 20th rounds of RECP meetings were held in Hyderabad and Philippines in July and November last year, and the trade pact is likely to be finalized this year.
"Around 40 lakh people are associated with the fruit industry. Imports — be they from China or America — have to have higher duties so that local produce is not discouraged," said Mohommad Yousuf Dar, deputy director of Kashmir’s Horticulture department.
Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir economy. More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation, of which 65 per cent comprise apple orchards. The state’s apple produce — one of the highest in the country — touched 17.8 lakh metric tonnes last year.
Experts say Kashmiri apples cannot match the technology, packaging and presentation of foreigner countries. Sub-standard pesticides and fungicides also add to farmers’s woes.
Opposition National Conference (NC) too has joined in the chorus asking the government to intervene on the industry’s behalf.
“China’s proposal... threatens to devastate J&K’s 9000+ crore Horticulture Sector. This would impact more than 9 lakh families. State Govt should act!” tweeted Junaid Azim Mattu, NC’s state spokesman