Himachal apples ready for harvest

Shimla: Early apple varieties fast reaching maturity, the fruit harvest in Himachal Pradesh is ready to start with the first batches already having hit the markets.

Early varieties,  Red June, Summer Queen and Tydeman’s Early Worcester, though not the best in terms of quality, are ready to harvested and marketed. According to an estimate the state is expected to have a production of  about 2.5 crore boxes this year, which is marginally less than the previous year.

Though some fruit has already reached the market but the bulk of early variety harvest would be available by 10 July. The harvest for juicer and better quality of apples; Royal Delicious, Red Chief, Super Chief, Oregon Spur and Scarlet Spur is expected to start from end of July, and continues till end of November, with the last fruits being harvested in high altitude valleys of Kinnaur and Spiti.

Apple happens to be the mainstay of the state’s economy, and   plentiful snow in last winter and the recent good spells of rain have sufficiently increased the moisture content in the soil, which has helped the plants obtain sufficient nutrients. Snow is considered white manure for apple orchards.

There was some damage to the crop in the recent hailstorms and significant premature fruit dropping too, but overall, the crop is healthy, says Lokinder Singh Bisht, a orchard owner from Rohru. Shimla district accounts for 80 percent of the total apple production in Himachal Pradesh.

The monsoon has been very weak this year and was delayed by about a week. Normally the rains break out over the hills by 27 June.

Apple growers from a Kothkai – Jubbal and Rohru area are a worried lot as the main road linking Rohru-Hatkoti-Jubbal-Kothkai-Theog is in bad condition that could affect transportation of apple boxes to the markets.

Even in weak monsoon conditions, the road has deteriorated into a dirt track and the maintenance work is in bad shape.

Besides the bad road conditions, there are other concerns that worry us says Vicky Kanwar, an apple orchard owner from Jubbal. There is shortage of labor, uncertainty about markets remains, lack of proper storage facilities, transportation time and perish ability of the fruit should it not get to the market in time are some of the concerns that worry us, he added.

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