Srinagar: Kashmir-based apple growers and sellers on Wednesday appealed to the Centre to ban the Iranian apple imports as the alleged “illegal entry” of the fruit from the country has threatened the centuries-old apple industry in the valley.
Addressing a press conference, the President of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealer’s Association and New Kashmir Fruit Association, Bashir Ahmad Bashir said the supply of Iranian apples in India has severely damaged the rates of Kashmiri apples in the market.
“The demand for Kashmiri apples in Mandis is less owing to the availability of Iranian apples,” he said, reported news agency KNO.
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Bashir said the rates of apples have declined from Rs 1200 per box to Rs 600 in the past few days in the Mandis.
“The production cost of one apple box is Rs 600, moreover the transport charges are Rs 300 per box,” he said. “The GST has increased from 12 percent to 18 percent. Now, how can a grower sell his production at such low rates?” he asked.
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Bashir said that despite repeated requests, the Centre has not paid any heed towards the matter, leaving the apple growers in lurch. “We met Union Agriculture Minister but he didn’t take any action to stop the supply. Then we wrote [a letter] to Prime Minister, LG’s office, but to no avail,” he said.
In the letter, the growers had said that Iranian apples flooding the Indian market were ‘disguised and routed via Afghanistan to avail zero duty under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) pact – as per which the member countries don’t impose import duty on each other.
“If Modi cries for Make in India, then why we are importing goods from outside when we have our own production,” he said. “PM Modi should uphold his own slogan”.
Bashir said that the horticulture industry is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir, and government should safeguard this sector.
“This is the only sector that has survived in all these years of turmoil. Around 70 to 80 percent of population is associated with this industry and are earning their livelihood from it,” he said.
Bashir said that, as per their information, many people have dumped the Iranian apples at the ports of Mumbai and Chennai, which they later sell at low rates in the Indian Mandis as compared to Kashmiri apples.
“We have come to know that in Iran, one kg of apple costs Rs 20. So, these people import the apples and then dump them in CA stores here, “he said. “There should be tax imposed on it.”
“We appeal Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and ban the import of Iranian apples in the market,” Bashir said.