Shimla: Adding to woes of the farming community, hailstorms over the weekend wrecked apple orchards and vegetable crops in Shimla hills even as the overall apple productivity is projected to take a hit, which farm scientist are attributing to after-effects of a long dry winter spell and general shifting of weather patterns, primarily due to global warming.
Many orchardists in Kotkhai, Rohru and Theog apple growing belts are still assessing counting their losses and have sought government support to cope up for the year.
Chetan Chauhan, an orchardist from Rohru rued, â€œthe little crop that was on the trees stands damaged because of the hailstorm on Friday.â€
â€œThe government had planned to deploy anti-hail guns for crop protection but when the technology becomes effective remains to be seen,â€ he added.
Sohan Thakur, a zila parishad member from Theog said that both apple and vegetable crops in several panchayats of Theog have been destroyed by hail. â€œFarmers are seeking some compensation to sustain a livelihood,â€ he said.
Fallout of a snowless winter, in an internal assessment has already made the horticulture department predict a drop in apple productivity for the year.
Director horticulture Gurdev Singh stated that the crop for the 2009 harvest is expected to be lower by about 18 percent over the previous year. In 2008 the state recorded a production of 2.55 crore boxes.
With Shimla district being the apple bowl of the state, a production of about 1.50 crore is expected here, followed by about 30 lakhs in Kullu and 15 lakhs in Kinnaur.
Vir Singh Thakur, a farm scientist with YS Parmar Horticulture university attributes expectations of the lower crop due to the dry conditions that prevailed from October to March over much of the apple belt. â€œFruiting suffered on both accounts because of no snow in the winter as well as absence of bee activity during bloom time,â€ said Thakur.
Peter Caton, a Green Peace activist documenting the impact of global warming on apples in Himalayas said, â€œit was noticed that the crop is shifting to higher and higher altitudes, with the lower altitudes bearing the brunt of warmer and drier weather patterns.â€
Even the intensity of dry spells or hailstorms was becoming more severe,â€ he said.
Apple plantations exist on over about 90,000 hectares and churn an annual economy of about Rs 1600 crores.