Apple Fields Forever, Kashmir

New technology brings new hope to Apple Farmers in Kashmir. More than 90,000 acres in the lush Kashmir valley are home to apple orchards. An autumnal fruit, September and October mark harvest season and it’s a sight to behold. Luscious red fruit hanging in bunches, bending the trees over with their weight, beckoning one’s hand to grab one and steal a juicy bite- the original sin. No wonder then that these fruits have become Bollywood’s analogy for a heroine’s beautiful cheeks in song and dialogue. It’s a feast and a dream and everybody wants them. During harvest they are widely available in fruit stalls across Kashmir and the north of India and the more southern you go, the more precious they get. But once the season comes to close, the Kashmiri apples begin to disappear off the shelves to be replaced by Chinese, US, New Zealand and Cuban varieties. What causes this sudden ebb? An Ngo called the J & K Rural Foundation blames it on poor storage and it also discovered that while the solution was ready and available, the farmers had no knowledge of how to go about it. The solution the Foundation discovered was the Control Atmospheric Storage (CAS), the facilities for which had been constructed by the government, one in Srinagar and one in Lassipur, but once the warehouses were ready, a typical case of bureaucratic amnesia struck. The apple farmers remained uninformed, the brand new facilities stayed empty and the apples continued to rot away. The foundation decided to set to work, first by familiarising the famers with the new technology and getting them to avail of it and later, by petitioning the government to open more CAS equipped warehouses. CAS involves the artificial modification of atmospheric conditions. (concentrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and levels of temperature and humidity) A common example of atmospheric modification used to preserve and extend shelf-life is the “air” that can be found puffing up a packet of chips.  It is a popular and widespread method across the world that allows the quality of food and other perishables to be preserved for long periods of time. The J & K Rural Foundation believes that this new technology can revolutionize the Kashmir’s apple industry. Not only can it ensure a year long supply of quality fruit but farmers can also take advantage of such sops as lower transportation costs during off-season, thus getting increased returns on their harvest. The farmers couldn’t have asked for better. “This new technology is great news for us,” they say, “We’ve all started using it and are pleased with the results. We only hope that the government opens a few more facilities and that farmers from all across the valley will have access to it.” An apple a day, as they say. One hundred percent homegrown. About The CCA journalist dissatisfied with his work in the mainstream and a committed Right to Information activist, Sajad Rasool from Badgam, Kashmir is concerned with the wayward development of his state. In spite of being rich in natural resources and one of the major producers of power, many people in the state still have to manage without basic amenities. According to Sajjad, it is the outcome of a lack of vision, rife corruption and zero accountability within the system. He feels that it is only through community media that he will be able to bring out these stories about Kashmir.

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