SRINAGAR, OCT 25: Unpredictable weather patterns, attributed to climate change, have severely impacted the apple crop in Kashmir this year, resulting in a significant 40-50 percent drop in production.
Apple growers revealed that the erratic weather fluctuations adversely affected the crop at multiple developmental stages, causing a decline in both the quantity and quality of apples. This setback has dealt a substantial blow to the apple industry, which serves as the linchpin of the regional economy.
Muhammad Ibrahim, a grower hailing from Sopore, expressed his concerns, stating, “I believe that production has plummeted by almost 60 per cent, as the entire season was unfavourable for the crop. The weather acted peculiarly this year, with the right temperatures being absent when needed, and vice versa. This abnormal weather has significantly impacted the growers.”
Ibrahim pointed out that orchardists, who typically received 1000 boxes of apples, now receive only 300-400 boxes, and even those are of subpar quality.
A senior SKUAST official explained that the unusual weather patterns, persisting throughout the season, were responsible for the decline in both the quality and quantity of the apple crop.
He highlighted that from the flowering stage to fruit development, the weather did not cooperate as expected.
“During flowering, the temperature dropped, impeding pollination due to reduced bee activity in low temperatures,” she observed. HE also noted that increased May rainfall led to the proliferation of primary scab, causing severe damage to the crop.
“This was followed by a dry period that hindered cell elongation, affecting the size of the fruit. When the fruit did develop, an unseasonal heatwave in September impacted its color, resulting in a rough, brownish exterior and making the apples appear bruised, rendering them unsuitable for the market,” he explained.
Nevertheless, SKAUST officials state that climate variability is likely to become a permanent characteristic in the region, underscoring the need for farmers to stay informed about microclimatic conditions using weather apps like Meghdoot and adapt their strategies accordingly. Bashir Ahmad, President of the Kashmir Fruit Growers Association, shared that apple production has decreased by 40 percent, with a notable reduction in the proportion of A-grade apples. “For instance, if we used to receive an average of 2000 apple trucks at the Parimpora fruit market, we now only receive 500-600 trucks. The number of A-grade apples has also dwindled, while there are more C- and D-grade apples this year. Additionally, diseases have caused more severe damage this season,” he stated.