By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 30 (IANS) Unusually heavy monsoon rains triggered massive landslides and blocked roads, largely in interior areas, have hampered the transportation of apples from Himachal Pradesh, forcing growers to dump the crop in rivulets.
“Hundreds of trucks carrying apples have been stranded in various stretches in the upper Shimla region, especially in Jubbal, Rohru, Kotkhai, Chopal areas due to landslides for nearly a fortnight,” a prominent fruit grower told IANS on Sunday.
“The condition of roads is so bad that truckers are refusing to ply their vehicles,” he added.
Others say the inclement weather and transportation problems have led to the rotting of apples.
“Apples are being dumped in rivulets as they have started perishing,” said Deepak Manta, a grower from Rohru.
Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Vikramaditya Singh said heavy rain has damaged roads and bridges. Last week, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Regional Officer, Abdul Basit, called on Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla here and presented the Flood Damage Report to him.
A maximum portion of national highways have been damaged in the recent floods triggered by unprecedented rains. He said the Kiratpur-Manali and Kalka-Shimla National Highways suffered a huge loss and the maintenance and repair work was undertaken on war footing to restore them.
Vikramaditya Singh, on July 20, met Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari in Delhi and apprised him about the devastation caused by incessant rains and cloudbursts to the national highways across the state. He urged allocation of funds for estimates of damaged roads and bridges submitted to the NHAI.
As per the state Emergency Operations Centre, the PWD suffered a loss of Rs 1,909 crore across the state. A total of 72 landslide incidents and 52 flash floods were reported in the state from June 24 to July 29.
Besides Shimla, the condition is reported to be poor in other apple-growing areas in Mandi, Kullu, and Chamba districts.
Attacking the Congress government, BJP leader and IT Cell head Amit Malviya tweeted a video of the dumping, saying: “Apple growers in Shimla are forced to drain their produce in a rivulet because Congress government in Himachal has failed to help farmers reach fruits to market in time.
“On the one hand Rahul Gandhi sheds tears for farmers, on the other, Congress state Govts are a disaster, when it comes to assisting farmers. This is why fruits and vegetables are expensive in the market,” he added.
Joining the issue, state BJP leader Chetan Bragta, a prominent apple grower, tweeted: “The whole year the growers works hard to prepare his crop, and it is very painful if his crop ends like this. We are constantly urging the government to open apple collection centres and restore connectivity.
“But the government is not paying attention to this, due to which the growers are forced to throw his apple in the drain.”
Former Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said the rains have caused a lot of damage to roads, orchards, houses and fertile land. “After meeting affected people, it came to know that till now the Congress government has given assurance in the name of help. Although the people’s representative of this area is also a minister in the government, he is unable to improve the area,” he said during his visit to Shimla district, which alone accounts for 80 per cent of the state’s total apple production.
More than 90 per cent of the state’s apple produce goes to the domestic market. But farmers are skeptical about the overall production of the apple crop this year. They say the decline in the crop this time could be as high as 70 per cent compared to the yield of recent years.
Himachal Pradesh, the country’s fruit bowl ranking second in apple and almond production, may witness a 30-35 per cent decline in the apple crop besides flavour deterioration this year owing to freak weather conditions, say horticulture experts.
Growers say the loss could be 50 to 60 per cent. As per farmers, the snowless winter and wet weather with the onset of spring for several weeks are the reasons for the crop loss. The impact is seen more on lower and mid belts.
Harvest will pick in July and last till October-end. As per the Economic Survey 2022-23, the state produced 674,000 tons of apples till December 2022.
In the past 13 years, the leanest crop of 275,000 tonnes was in 2011-12 while the optimum of 892,000 tons was in 2010-11.