JK government to declare last week’s snowfall as ‘calamity’, provide ‘enhanced compensation’ to affected growers: Report

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir is likely to declare last week’s snowfall, which led to large-scale orchards and crops damage across Kashmir, as a calamity to carve a path for “enhanced compensation” to the affected farmers, Greater Kashmir reported.

A formal announcement is likely to be made in a day or two, GK quoted a senior official as having said.

As per the plan, the official said, apple would be brought under category of perennial crop for “special compensation” and the untimely snowfall would be declared as a  calamity to provide relief to the growers.

“Each farmer will get Rs 36,000 in case of 30 percent damage to each hectare of orchard land,” said the official.

Under the existing state disaster response fund (SDRF) and national disaster response fund (NDRF) norms, the growers are eligible to compensation in the range of Rs 6,800 to Rs 18,000 under different categories for per-hectare of land for different variety of crops, including perennial.

In Kashmir, around 1,44,825 hectare land is under apple cultivation. While the horticulture department has maintained that orchards across the Valley suffered damage during last week’s snowfall, it has said the exact quantum of damage would be known only after getting reports from all districts within a week’s time.

The orchards in southern Kashmir have been worst-hit.

ALSO READ: Early winter snow wrecks havoc: Orchards destroyed, electricity gone, travellers stranded, highways closed

A horticulture department official said the damage to orchards in Kulgam district is around 50 percent while, as per preliminary estimates, the orchards in Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag have suffered damage of 40 percent, 30 percent and 30 percent respectively. In rest of the Valley districts, the damage is in the range of 30 percent to 20 percent, he said.

The fruit growers’ associations have put the losses to the horticulture industry at around Rs 1000 crore.

Apart from massive damage to fruit-bearing trees, there has been a loss of around 20 to 30 percent crop which was yet to be harvested.

“The government will release Rs 10 crore each to all district commissioners of the Valley in a day or two to provide interim relief to the growers,” said the official.

The average annual apple production in Kashmir is 17 lakh metric ton. As per economic survey report of 2017, apples worth Rs 6,500 crore were exported from the Valley.

Owing to the devastation, there are apprehensions that this production would dwindle due to the untimely snowfall, said another senior official of the horticulture department, adding that the “impact” would be felt in years to come.

He said it takes at least 10 to 15 years of investment of a farmer to develop a fully-grown orchard.

“In some areas, as per reports, entire patches of orchards have vanished. Those farmers will have to start from the beginning,” said the official.

ALSO READ: Behind an orchardist’s novel tree-fixing method, lies Kashmir’s celebrated resilience

Another worry is that the damage to orchards will have an adverse impact on overall economy of the region.

The Rs. 7000 crore horticulture industry is considered to be the backbone of state’s economy.

As per the state’s latest economic survey report, more than seven lakh families comprising of 33 lakh people are directly or indirectly associated with this sector.

The last time the region received snowfall so early was in November 2008. Pictures that have gone viral on social media over the past one week show damaged and uprooted fruit-bearing trees, some of them still laden with apples, strewn across orchards.

On the other hand, the snowfall led to a complete blockade of the Srinagar-Jammu highway where more than 5,000 fruit laden trucks carrying 50,000 metric ton fruit were in transit to different fruit markets across India on the eve of Diwali—the time of the year when fruits fetch hefty sums.

“Since this fruit didn’t reach the markets in time, the prices will fall sharply,” said the official. “We are not taking this into account.”

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