Shimla: With about 15 percent of the apple crop still to be harvested, though the production has already surpassed its highest ever for the state but the growers are a remorseful lot due of the problems of plenty.
â€œWe have got a record production of apples this year,â€ says Gurdev Singh, director horticulture. The harvest is still in progress and till date about 3.10 crore apple boxes have been sent out from the state for marketing in the country, he said.
The previous highest apple production of 2.97 crore boxes was recorded in 2007-08. Department officials are expecting the apple production to touch 3.85 crore boxes for the year.
Besides the fruit marketed, government agencies have procured about 55,000 metric tons of apples under market intervention schemes, a department statistician said.
The best harvest in terms of volumes has not been without it share of troubles; bad roads, shortages of packaging material and transportation trucks, labour problems, heavy rains damaging the fruit quality and falling prices only had the orchard owners pinning for last yearâ€™s market rates, when production was low.
â€œThe heavy crop belied our hopes about good returns,â€ says Rajeev Chauhan an orchard owner from Jubbal. The government failed to maintain the road network and that proved very costly for the fruit growers, he said.
The packaging material supply chain as well as the fruit marketing operations faced frequent disruptions, said Chauhan. Restoring a road network would cause a glut in the market because of sudden increase in supply, which resulted in prices dropping, leaving very little profits from the sales made, he added.
Passing the buck, public works minister Gulab Singh Thakur said that the recent torrential rains and heavy flow of vehicles on Theog-Kotkhai-Hatkoti-Rohru road (lifeline to a major apple producing belt), has caused excessive damages to the road.
The PWD department has assessed the road network damages at Rs 1009 crore of which Shimla district, considered the apple heartland, alone has suffered a damage of about Rs 240 crores.