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Friday, October 11, 2019

Apples in full bloom at Kashmir

A young Isaac Newton was sitting beneath an apple tree contemplating the mysterious universe. Suddenly, an apple fell on his head. While anybody else would have started eating the luscious fruit or would have damned the thing falling upon, the great Scientist understood the force that brought down the apple crashing to the ground; relating it to the moon  falling towards the Earth and the Earth falling toward the sun: Gravity. “Apple” is the fruit of the apple tree, species Malusdomestica in the rose family Rosaceae. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. The tree is small and deciduous.

The tree originated from Central Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today. It is grown in million tonnes!Every mother would want her child to eat  more of  green vegetables and lentils – as also fruits and apple would stand top of the chart.  Apple was often linked to health – and fruits were bought depending on how fresh they looked.  Not any longer – today people are concerned about pesticides and chemical wax keeping their sheen.

Read with interest that away in US, if Granny Smith apples are a little too tart for your liking and you find Galas a little too sugary, a new apple coming to market later this year promises to be just the right mix of tangy and sweet.Coming to stores in December, the Cosmic Crisp apple is already generating a lot of buzz. That's because it's been in development for over two decades. Grown and bred by Washington State University's tree fruit breeding program, the Cosmic Crisp is a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp apples, but they look more like a Red Delicious.According to those who developed the fruit, the new apple is described as being both firm and crisp, with a balanced flavor that's a bit tarter than a Honeycrisp. The large, juicy apple is not only good for eating plain, but its heartier texture also makes it ideal for baking.The Cosmic Crisp website says that the apple's flavor profile will allow chefs and home cooks to reduce sugar needed in recipes, since the apple was cultivated to have higher levels of natural sugars.Cosmic Crisps were also designed to last longer after being picked and, when kept at about 32 degrees, will maintain their texture and flavor for up to 10 months.

Back home, Kashmir's apple harvest is expected to match production in 2017-2018, say figures released this week by the Jammu and Kashmir government's horticulture department — belying fears that anger against the Centre's decision to end the state's special status, as well as labour shortages and violence, were forcing farmers to leave their fruit crop, valued at Rs 1,200 crore, to rot.The government estimates the fruit harvest will hover around 1,956,331 metric tonnes in 2018-2019 — similar to the 1,973,326 mt recorded in 2017-2018.

Figures for trucks with cargoes of apples, maintained at the Lakhanpur excise barrier, show 34,599 trucks crossed Jammu and Kashmir’s largest commercial transit point until 9 October, carrying over 440,000 metric tons (mt.) of fruit to nation markets: 124,000 mt. of that since 1 October alone.“We’ve seen a huge surge in fruit shipments this past week,” said Farooq Khan, an advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik. “This is partly because the crop ripened late this year, and partly because growers have been able to hold out for better prices, because of price-support measures introduced for the first time.”

Thursday, government sources said, saw over 2,300 fruit trucks cross Lakhanpur, headed for markets in New Delhi and further south. Between between 1,200 and 1,400 fruit trucks have passed through Lakhanpur each night this fortnight, figures similar to past years.Apples are, as usual, expected to make up the overwhelming bulk of this year's fruit production – the  bulk of production comes from the districts of Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag — all politically-sensitive areas where economic hardship could have fuelled Islamist-led mobilisation against India.

The robust apple harvest is rare good news for the Union government, whose decision to de-operationalise Jammu and Kashmir's special constitutional status led to educational institutions being closed since August, and crippled the tourism industry, with several top hotels downing shutters.  There have been some unfair criticism against the Govt.  The apple production figures, some in the government believe, could be the first sign than the worm is turning. Less than a fortnight ago, one major international newspaper reported that 'Kashmir's apple harvest turns sour with fear and anger', one major international newspaper had reported last month, saying fear had "left fruit trees across the state bent with ripe, unpicked apples".

Fruit yields in Kashmir, marked a 10 percent decline in 2016-17 and one of the reasons was hail.   Now the Govt has decided to   offer price-support for apples. The Jammu and Kashmir government and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India have partnered to ensure floor prices for apples—peaking at 70 per kilo for the top superfine gradewith payments made directly to growers bank accounts.This year, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India was for the first time involved in large-scale apple procurement, in an effort to ensure a fair floor price for the apple harvest.

All that augurs well for the Nation to sing – ‘kashmir, beautiful Kashmir !’.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th Oct 2019.

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