Shimla: Hail storms struck parts of Kotgarh, an apple growing belt in Shimla district and parts of Mandi and Kullu area, yesterday, at a time when fruit trees were at a peak bloom, has left orchard owners a depressed lot.
With much of the bloom prematurely withered out, there would not be any apple crop, the mainstay of the economy, to harvest, later in the year .
“The damage in villages of Thanedar, Pamlai, Shathla, Saroga, Barubag, Lauga, is between 50 to 80 percent,” sDheeraj Bhaik, an orchard owner said.
“Not only apple crop but cherry crop has also suffered the damage due to hailstones, what otherwise was being expected to be a bumper crop year,” said Anoop Bhalaik, another orchardist.
In some area the hailstorm was so heavy that the crop is feared to be a total loss.
Horticulture minister Vidya Stokes was said to camping at her orchard farmhouse near Thanedhar in Kotgarh, when the afternoon storm left a trail of devastated crops on the hills slopes, wherever it struck, including the Stoke’s orchards.
“The temperature had dropped low from the ideal range of 18°C to 22°C in the higher and middle belt, which resulted in heavy rain and hailstorm,” said Dr. Vijay Thakur, Asso. Director, Fruit research Centre, Mashobra.
However, trees under the cover of anti-hail net were save of the striking hail and the bloom is intact. Because of high prices of anti-hail net, not every grower can afford it for their orchards.
Orchardists are demanding a strong policy for damage caused by natural calamity.
“Though many schemes are propagated in the state but the reality is that growers are at suffering. We work in the orchard for whole year but calamity for some minutes devastates all the hard work and led a negative effect on the livelihood,” said Anil Chauhan, an orchardist from Shathla.
State government has announced 80 percent subsidy on anti-hail net but most of the growers could not avail it due to long processes involved.
Earlier, BJP government had urged centre to bring loss due to heavy snow and hailstorm under natural calamity so that farmer could get compensation, is still waiting for nod from the centre.
The administration has also admitted farmers have lost crops worth crores.
Though, three anti-hail guns have been installed in Jubbal and Kotkhai region on an experimental area but the experiment generated much controversy and has been put in limbo.
Photos by Saurabh Chauhan