Regulate apple imports, farmers ministers urge

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Issues such as high input costs, lack of fair prices and unavailability of infrastructure like cold chains exacerbated the crisis for apple growers, the Apple Farmers’ Federation of India said

Issues such as high input costs, lack of fair prices and unavailability of infrastructure like cold chains exacerbated the crisis for apple growers, the Apple Farmers’ Federation of India said

The Indian Apple Growers Association has written a letter to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar urging his attention to the crisis in the sector. Issues such as high input costs, lack of fair prices and the unavailability of infrastructure such as cold chains exacerbated the crisis for apple growers, they said.

They told Mr Tomar in a memorandum that the rampant increase in production, transportation and living costs due to unprecedented price increases had made apple growing unprofitable. “For example, in the past two years, the cost of fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other equipment such as sprayers and tools has doubled. Farm workers are also not paid enough to live in dignity and face insecure jobs. As a result, they are forced to migrate to other sectors in search of better jobs and income. The small and medium-sized farmers and farm worker households are confronted with widespread indebtedness, poverty and the resulting impoverishment. Even under these circumstances, the Indian government is not responding to the call for a minimum support price of C2 [comprehensive cost]+50% and debt relief for apple growers,” says the association’s memorandum.

Importing apples was said to ease corporate control over the wholesale and retail markets. “Corporations make huge profits from multinational trade manipulation. For example, Afghanistan hasn’t even grown one metric ton of apples; however, recently six million tons of apples have been imported into our country from Afghanistan! Such trade manipulations by the corporate houses will be allowed by the Union government, leading to a crash in the selling price for farmers,” the memorandum said.

They said the average global productivity is 60 tons per hectare, while India has only 10 tons per hectare. “Meeting global productivity standards in the apple sector can bring farm households fivefold income. There is no effective governmental mechanism for sourcing, transporting and storing apples that would be accessible to the majority of apple growers in the difficult terrain. The state administration’s much-vaunted programs for high-density orchards and market interventions are a failure,” the memorandum said. They called for effective research and development projects to achieve global standards, as well as procurement, transportation and storage facilities by the government.

Farmers told Mr Tomar that collective, cooperative farming would give small and medium-sized farmers bargaining power. This would facilitate the pooling of resources to develop processing industries and infrastructure, including controlled atmosphere storage, cold chain transport facilities and credit relaxation. “Cooperative farming will help reduce production costs and transform small-scale production into large-scale production. Only such innovative and real-time experimentation can withstand the current exploitation by large commercial capitalists and their middlemen. In this way, farmer cooperatives can intervene in production, processing and marketing,” they suggested.

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