The supervened fundamental change in the global economy as the repercussion that followed upon the outbreak of COVID-19 has coerced most of the governments to impose an unmitigated lockdown on their countries, and the state of affairs in Kashmir divulges no different story.
As Kashmir, India's now lost paradise begging to be regained is not only a turbulent society but is the scene of a helplessly failing agricultural sector. Unfortunately, unlike the agriculture-based economic surges in the past, 2020 has drastically affected the horticulture of Kashmir the apple growers who are devastated with the impending losses, as 60-70 per cent of apple cultivation has been getting irrevocably ruined by the pernicious 'scab disease', as if enough is never enough when it is Kashmir at stake.
As often amused by the admirers of Kashmir's ingrained beauty, "those rosy cheeks of the people of Kashmir like their rosy-ripe apples", ironically, are not so "rosy" anymore. Apart from J&K's famed Red Gold (Saffron), the apples also hold a predominant share in the Kashmir's economy, purveying it with requisites exponential boost, precisely, a whopping yearly turnover of around Rs 1,200 Crore, with around 19 lakh metric tonnes of apple being produced each year, involving 7 lakh families.
According to the J&K's Economic Survey of 2017, over 50 per cent of Kashmir's population is contingently reliant on horticulture, ensuing in apple orchards occupying half of the land in Kashmir and this reflects in the GDP of this union territory, a striking exceeding share of more than 10 per cent to its economy.
The 'Apple Scab' (Venturia inaequalis) is an endemic fungal curse on apple farmers that has been affecting the J&K economy substantially lately, as the disease results not only in the decline of high-grade apple production but also swaying the overall production of the crop. It is pertinent to mention here that the apple orchards were ravaged badly last year as well due to the early and untimely leaden snowfall due to which the apple branches were reduced in number, thereby, causing a gargantuan decline in apple production which only aggravated with the recent hefty outbreak of the infamous curse of apples, known as the 'Black Spot Plague'. The fruit growers and orchardists are anguished as they reported that their orchards developed the fungus despite of being sprayed with the prescribed fungicides, as far as their circumstances did allow them to. This is alarmingly causing a grievous dent in Kashmir's economy is due to the sole and significant reason that the infected apples fetch less than half the market rate when compared to Grade-A fruit.
Amidst this, a silent minority alleges that they could not spray the standardized pesticides on time due to the Covid-19 lockdown, as they were helplessly forced to purchase substandard pesticides by the government. Dr Tarik Rasool, the senior pathology scientist of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST), reportedly says, "the disease emerged because people failed to clear last years leaves from their orchards which contained a heavy spore load, followed by the long wet season in spring that led to the massive outbreak of the plague". The recent reports disclose that the production remain affected stubbornly in the years as well even if the scab disease is somehow contained and eradicated as the early snowfall last year has already done an irreparable damage to the apple orchards conspicuously as the canopy of trees reduced.