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Don’t import apples, say hill farmers

Bharat Dogra, Shimla | Photographer: Ajit Kirshna, New Delhi

In several Himalayan villages, owners of apple orchards are angry about the Union government’s decision to facilitate the import of apples. While earlier apple imports were permitted at only one port, now import of apples can take place using many ports as well as land and air routes. This is likely to increase apple imports and lower prices. This may be good news for consumers but apple orchard owners in the Himalayan region are not at all amused.

They are asking why the government emphasised increasing the spread of apple orchards as a development strategy in many Himalayan states if finally a decision was to be taken to facilitate the import of apples on a very large scale. These apples are being imported  from countries which are known to give huge subsidies and generous help for promoting export of farm products.

Surendra Chauhan, an orchard owner in the Upper Shimla region in Himachal Pradesh, says, “Increasing imports of apples will have an adverse impact on our economy. We had a satisfactory harvest this time but we should also be able to get a proper rate. If the markets of cities like Delhi are filled with imported apples then we may not be able to get a good rate for our fresh and healthy produce.”

Both the BJP and the ruling Congress party in Himachal appear to be on the same page on this issue. Atul Sharma, a Congress leader, said that the Modi government has gone back on its pledge to apple orchard owners regarding protection of their interests. Prakash Thakur, another Congress leader, said that before the Lok Sabha elections Narendra Modi had promised to protect orchard owners from apple imports.

On the other hand, former horticulture minister and present BJP leader Narendra Baragata said that the ruling Congress ...

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