NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR, July 24 (Reuters) – India’s apple production is expected to nearly halve this year after heavy rains and flash floods wiped out about $122 million worth of fruit in the main producing Himalayan region, officials and farmer unions said.
The mountainous Kashmir territory and Himachal Pradesh produce nearly all of India’s apples, which are largely consumed domestically. Less than 2% of the country’s apples are exported, mostly to Bangladesh and Nepal.
Heavy rains have not only damaged farms, but also destroyed roads, power lines and infrastructure worth $550 million in Himachal Pradesh, while bad weather at the same time has hit India’s crucial rice crop, which led to an export ban last week.
Fruits including apples have been left rotting in farms after a fungus infestation, according to farmer unions.
“About 10% of Himachal’s apple orchards have been washed away, which is a major loss as it takes around 15 years for the tree to give fruit,” said Harish Chauhan, the state convener of farmers union Samyukta Kisan Manch.
The Apple Growers Association of India and Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers estimate output in Kashmir, the largest apple grower in the country, will drop 50% this year from 1.87 million metric tons a year ago.
“Crops are mainly affected because it did not snow as much as it should have this winter and excessive rains later damaged farms,” the Apple Growers Association’s president Ravinder Chauhan said.
Kashmir has received 50% more rain than average so far this monsoon, which began on June 1, while Himachal state, the second-largest producer, has recorded 79% more rain than normal, data from the weather department showed.
Kashmir’s horticulture department estimates overall damage to fruit crops of up to $109.78 million.
In Himachal state, output is expected to drop 40% from output of 640,000 metric tons last year, a state official said.
Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi and Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar
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