Heat hits apple crop in fruit bowl of India

Apple crop in the low and middle hills has been badly hit and if the monsoon fails to arrive even next week the crop in the upper hills would also be affected, K R Dhiman, Vice Chancellor of Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture & Forestry, Nauni, in Solan district said.

"The damage to the Apple crop because of rising mercury and absence of rain is estimated to be around 25 per cent," he said.

Moreover, the adverse climate has also affected the size of apples, the Vice Chancellor of Chaudhary Shrawan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishvavidyalaya, Palampur, Tej Pratap. said.

The hill state known for its cool climes is witnessing hot conditions presently.

Temperature is hovering around 30 degree Celsius in the queen of hills in the month of June as compared to 24-25 degrees in previous years.

HP has received 60 per cent deficit rainfall this year, Director State Meteorological centre, Manmohan Singh said.

Monsoon, which normally hits Himachal by June 20, is not likely to arrive before June 30, and could be further delayed, Singh said.

All districts of Himachal have received deficit rainfall to the tune of 60 to 80 per cent, he said.

Prem Sharma, President of Kullu fruit growers association and a horticulturist, said the damage to apple crop could touch almost 50 per cent.

He is supported by R S Minhas, chief of Himod cooperative society which has apple growers of Shimla, Kinnaur, Mandi and Kullu as its members.

State's Directorate of Horticulture had estimated apple cultivation this year to be the tune of 1.80 crore boxes (one box consists about 25 kg apple). However, the dry spell has affected the production.

The directorate, on the basis of a survey conducted across the state, has sent a proposal to the state government to pay Rs 65 crore as compensation to the apple growers of the state, its Director Gurdev Singh said.

The department had distributed more than 12 lakh apple saplings among farmers last year to boost cultivation out of which almost 90 per cent has dried up due to heat.

Accusing the state government of neglecting the farmers, leader of opposition in the HP house Vidya Stokes demanded the state government bring apple under the Agriculture Insurance Scheme.

Minhas said apple crop in low hills (below 900 feet) and middle hills (upto 1600 ft) of Kot Khai (native place of state Horticulture minister Narinder Bragta), Rajgarh in Sirmaur, Rampur, Kumarsain, Kotgharh and Chopal in Shimla have been extensively damaged due to lack of water.

The situation is not that bad in apple growing areas in high hills (above 7000 feet), but if the monsoon gets delayed by another week it would also be adversely effected, he added.

Prem Sharma, who has orchards in Jana village in Kullu district, said this is time for maturing of the apple crop which had been hit hard because of paucity of water.

The adverse weather is also resulting in yellowing of the leaves of apple trees and untimely failing of the fruit, N K Negi of Rampur said.

The apple plant is also coming under the grip of pests, he added.

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