Shimla: Apple crop is set to break all past records in Himachal Pradesh with production crossing 3.85 crore boxes during the current marketing season of June to October, officials said on Sunday.
Apple from tribal Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts is yet to hit the market and this year the production in twin tribal districts is expected to cross 40 lakh boxes as compared to 20 to 25 lakh boxes during the previous years.
The production was about 90 lakh boxes more than the highest production of 2.67 crore standard boxes in 2007 and almost three times more than the 1.30 crore boxes produced in 2009.
About three crore boxes had already been sent to various markets across the country while 90 lakh to one crore boxes were yet to be sent to the market.
About 40 lakh boxes were stranded in Jubbal-Kotkhai areas due to a massive landslide on Shimla-Jubbal road near Gumma, 50 km from Shimla. The road was closed on Saturday evening as a 200-metre stretch of the road was washed away and hundreds of apple-laden trucks got stuck en route.
Apple from tribal Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts was yet to hit the market and this year the production in twin tribal districts was expected to cross 40 lakh boxes as compared to 20 to 25 lakh boxes during the previous years.
The government agencies sent about 70,000 tonnes of apple under Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for processing but due to lack of storage capacity, a large quantity of apple was rotting.
A record apple crop coupled with heavy rains causing numerous road breaches in the apple belt, especially in Shimla district, hampered transportation of the fruit.
While substantial quantity of apple was sent to hitherto unexplored markets in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, some big agri-business companies like Adani and Reliance also directly purchased apple from the growers.
Meanwhile the government has totally failed in addressing issues of the apple fruit growers regarding the bumper crop in the state. The conditions of roads in the apple belt including the NH-22 on which majority of the apple is transported is in shambles and would have put any responsible government to shame. Truckers and small vehicle owners are over charging freight for transporting boxes and the government has turned a blind eye towards this practice.
Condition of state highways and interior roads is no better either as people are being forced to pay manifolds to send their produce at exhorbant rates.
The Horticulture Ministry which is responsible for smooth operations have completely botched up the apple season this year. There is an acute shortage of apple cartons and trays and these are being sold in black market at higher prices.